Monday, August 2, 2010


One of the most important roles of local officials, in my opinion, is to provide connections. We interact with many people with many interests, and linking those people together can help strengthen our community. At the basic level is something like this blog where I attempt sometimes to connect you to events in our community.

There are also more powerful connections that can be made, too. For example, when Holly Benson was in the state legislature, she connected me, through my science education work at IHMC, with Gulf Power and the Escambia and Santa Rosa school districts to create a program to enhance science education. The outcome was I LOVE Science (Increasing Local Opportunities for Volunteers Enthusiastic about Science), a program that brings community volunteers into 5th grade classrooms to lead hands on activities aligned with the curriculum. The program is now entering its 5th year and has been very successful. (Keep your eyes peeled for forthcoming information on volunteering this year.)

Most of you have a robust network that connects you with many resources throughout this community. These connections have a significant impact on you, your finances, and your health. Did you know, for instance, you are more likely to be overweight if your friends' friends are overweight? Your connections provide an extended knowledge base, helping you navigate through many of life's challenges (did a friend help you figure out how to get your first mortgage? have you gotten a job because someone told you of an opening?). The impact of your circles is critical to your well-being.

Unfortunately, many in our community do not have strong connections. Or their connections have a detrimental impact on their quality of life, linking them to damaging behaviors or not linking them to important resources and skills. Unite Escambia's Poverty Solutions Team realized that by connecting those living in poverty with new circles, they could have a positive impact on reducing poverty. To this end, they have created the Bridges to Circles program which links allies with families living in poverty, connecting them to the knowledge, skills, and resources many of us take for granted. Of course, they are always looking for new allies in this program, and information is available on their website. I encourage you to consider this opportunity.

By increasing our connections in our community, whether participating in local government, helping in the schools, or serving as an ally for someone trying to break the cycle of poverty, we can strengthen our city together. Let me know if there is a resource or a group that I can help connect you to.