News and Events

Early Childhood Film & Discussion Series Notes and Action Steps

Hutchinson Community Foundation has been working collaboratively with our early childhood and community partners for nearly two decades to achieve a seamless system of inclusive services to help children and families in Reno County, and we've made significant progress. But there are still pressing challenges, including availability of high-quality, affordable child care, transportation to and from preschool, and funding cuts from the state that significantly affect our families and programs.

This summer, we are inviting the public to join us for a four-part film series to spark conversation on the importance of investing in early childhood programs and education for the long-term impact on our families, workforce, health, and communities. A discussion period follows each film, allowing time to share reactions to the film and ideas for how to improve the situation for young children and their parents right here in Reno County. All are free and open to the public. 

Below are the event dates and the discussion notes, followed by action steps that you can take today to contribute to the conversation:

MONDAY, JUNE 27 - 6pm at Stage 9, 9 South Main

The Raising of America Signature Hour

Some of the main questions and topics that arose during the conversation were:
  • Surprise at the scientific studies that show the effects of stress over time, regardless of income.
  • Surprise at the return on investment (at least 7%) in early childhood care and education over time.
  • Why don't corporations in Reno County have employer-sponsored childcare? The United States Military does. 
  • Can we raise our standards of childcare without the federal government? 
  • How do we adjust our community's values to invest in parents and kids?
  • How might we provide incentives to businesses to subsidize childcare costs or offer parental leave? 
  • How might we offer more stress-relief opportunities for parents

MONDAY, JULY 11 - 6pm at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, 407 E. 12th

Caring for Our Kids

Some of the main questions and topics that arose during the conversation were:

  • Surprise that the US had animal abuse laws before laws protecting children, as the understanding was that children were the property of their parents and the government did not get a say in how they were raised.
  • Where is the fine line of government intervention?
  • Why does personal responsibility apply to people but not businesses (bail outs)?
  • How do we overcome the stereotype that people who receive help are immoral or undeserving?
  • Hope that our country once got so close to high-quality, affordable childcare for everyone. 
  • How do you raise the education level of early childhood teachers when most are not paid a living wage? 
  • Even with all of the data, what will convince legislators to invest in the immediate costs of early care for the long-term return?
  • How do you have both an affordable and high-quality early learning environment?
  • We have narrowed the definition of "our kids" to the ones in our own family; our "village" has gotten very small.
  • The current assistance available ignores the working poor and creates a fair/not fair system, but where would the income to pay for programs come from?
  • Countries like China and Canada have created early learning systems that help raise children out of poverty, but is it the fear of socialism and government intrusion that prevents this from happening widely in America? 

MONDAY, JULY 25 - 6pm at Stage 9, 9 South Main

DNA is Not Destiny

Some of the main questions and topics that arose during the conversation were:

  • A phrase from the film that hit home was, "Hurt people hurt people"
  • Impressed by the idea of changing attitudes toward children with issues from "What's wrong with you?" TO "What happened to you?" Keeping that in mind when working with them in school, etc...
  • Surprised that what occurs for some children and families in America's large cities was compared to South African Aparteid.
  • It seems like we have become good at blocking these issues from our minds.We sometimes pretend poverty and trauma don't exist if we don't experience it.
  • Had not previously considered the concept of "Continuous traumatic stress" - when the stress is relentless and children never reach "Post traumatic stress" What does continuous stress mean for brain development in young children?
  • Appreciated that the film pointed out that we (agencies, volunteers, government, etc...) come in as authorities when issues exist thinking we alone are going to fix this. Instead, we need to tap into and join with the leaders of the particular community in need who are experts through experiences.
  • McCandless Elementary and Lincoln Elementary (Hutchinson Public schools) have 96% of students living in poverty. We have children and families living with Continues Traumatic Stress right here!
  • Surprised by this scientific information about how stress experienced by parent can impact children even before they're born.
  • Impacted by watching the experiment with the mother rat who was in a state of panic - as she worked so hard to make a nest for her babies in a less than suitable environment and carrying that analogy to parents who are struggling to raise children in poverty.
  • Realized that families may need help in their homes and not just in school settings.
  • Wondered how affordable, accessible early education and childcare would effect these families?
  • Surprised by the statistic that 1 in 4 kids in the US is growing up in poverty
  • Would like to ask as government officials why our country raises kids so differently than other countries - time off for parents after child is born, safe, affordable childcare for all, etc...and point out that if we grab opportunities to help kids develop fully, it will equate to economic success for the country.
  • Felt hopefulness after this film because resilience is possible! There is evidence that effects of trauma could be reversed with thoughtful attention.

MONDAY, AUGUST 8 - 6pm at Stage 9, 9 South Main

Paper Tigers - One High School's Unlikely Success Story

"Stressed brains can't learn." That was the nugget of neuroscience that Jim Sporleder, principal of a high school riddled with violence, drugs and truancy, took away from an educational conference in 2010. Three years later, the number of fights at Lincoln Alternative High School had gone down by 75% and the graduation rate had increased five-fold. Paper Tigers is the story of how one school made such dramatic progress. Following six students over the course of a school year, we see Lincoln's staff try a new approach to discipline: one based on understanding and treatment rather than judgment and suspension. Using a combination of vérité and revealing diary cam footage, Paper Tigers is a testament to what the latest developmental science is showing: that just one caring adult can help break the cycle of adversity in a young person's life.

How did the educators at Lincoln Alternative High School bring hope to their students who were facing so many Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)? 

  • They built relationships with the students, showed them value and unconditional love. They never gave up on the students, making them accountable for their choices and being consistent with their message and expectations. They didn't punish the kids for their situation but educated them about their ACEs to empower them to make different choices. 
How can we bring hope to the children of Reno County?
  • Listen to children, keep an open door, and share your own story of adversity.
  • Create a wrap-around support system.
  • Make the school a family and give consistent emotional support.
  • Start when kids are very young. It starts with parents, allowing them to be vulnerable and withholding judgment. 
  • We might be the one caring adult that can make a difference in a child's life. 


There are many things we can do, individually and together, to influence the future prosperity of Reno County and become known as one of the best places to raise children. We hope you will join the conversation to explore how.

Change the conversation.
The dominant way of talking about children and families in the U.S. focuses on parents, but families don't live in a bubble. Parental choices are constantly shaped by the society we live in: the quality of housing and neighborhoods, the quality and availability of childcare, our wage and income patterns, workplace and public policies, social norms, and economic and racial structures. When we talk about raising children in Reno County, we have to talk more broadly about these issues. Write letters to the editor, call in to radio shows, host a viewing of The Raising of America at your church or place of employment, or find a way that suits you to help change the conversation about the youngest and most vulnerable among us.  

Join the K-Ready Collective.
The United Way of Reno County convenes early childhood partners, school districts, and advocates to work together on initiatives, events, and activities that help young children be kindergarten ready. The collective meets next on Monday, August 8 at 4pm at the United Way, 924 N. Main, and is open to everyone to attend. Contact Lisa Gleason to get on the email list.

Save the Children's Initiatives Fund.
The Children's Initiatives Fund, funded by the Tobacco Master Settlement, is regularly swept by the Governor and State Legislature to fill gaps in the State General Fund and, most recently, increase K-12 funding. These sweeps mean less funds now and long-term for young children and their families in Kansas. Use this simple form to state your support for the CIF or contact our legislators directly to ask that they preserve the CIF for its impact on Kansas' young children and families.

Contact us about how the Community Foundation can help you achieve your philanthropic goals.
The Community Foundation has established an Early Childhood Endowed Field of Interest Fund that, over time, will make grants to Reno County programs and initiatives working with young children. Anyone can make a gift to that fund now or in their estate plans. But if you have specific ideas of how you want to invest in early childhood now or in the future, we can help you find the appropriate fund, format, or connection to do so. Email or call Aubrey Abbott Patterson at 663.5293 to continue the conversation.

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