At the Heart of Family Learning: The gift of learning through community

Recently I had the pleasure of contributing an article to Education Reimagined’s Voyager Magazine. In it, I argue that we’re much too narrow in our understanding of infrastructure in the United States. For many of us, the term infrastructure conjures up images of bridges, roads, and power grids. While that definition is correct, it doesn’t fully acknowledge the families who are integral and interdependent components of infrastructure. Infrastructure exists in service to families and communities and, in turn, is served by them. Families are a key component of a community’s infrastructure and the foundation on which thriving communities are built.

At NCFL, our whole focus is working alongside families to build the systems of support that allow them to fully contribute to and be fully seen by the systems that serve them. While my mind is often buzzing with the energy and challenge of this work, at this time of year I like to pause and reflect on the beauty and wisdom within communities, too. Last month I shared the stories of two participants who, along with the English language and child development education they received, also found community and cultural connection through family literacy programming. But for every impact story we tell, there are dozens more families whose life experiences have been changed for the better thanks to their willingness to be part of our family literacy, family leadership, and family engagement efforts.

It is truly a gift to engage in this work alongside families and community partners. Every day, in cities across the country, we’re coming together to create the conditions for the types of places we all want to live: communities that are equitable; that lift up family voice; that invest in family learning; and that prioritize family success across social, cultural, and economic lines.

Fayette County, Kentucky is a great example. Thanks to a collection of committed local partners, Fayette County is working to build a family learning community as part of NCFL’s 60×30 Vision. Miranda Scully, Director of Family and Community Engagement for Fayette County Public Schools, understands that the support that family learning systems provide are key to building the infrastructure that makes communities thrive. “Knowing that education has the power to shift the trajectory of generations, Fayette County is fortunate to have a variety of diverse educational opportunities,” says Scully. “Our community will benefit the most from more sustainable collaborations that are inclusive of the communities we strive to serve. Becoming a family learning community shows the commitment of our city and school district leadership to work collectively to leverage resources, funds, and human capital for the betterment of all.”  

I feel so honored to lead NCFL’s team of experts in this important work and so inspired by the collective wisdom that arises from these efforts. When we make space for families and community leaders to work together to solve educational and economic challenges, we impact the problems of today and link to funds of existing knowledge in ways that will serve as a legacy for future generations.

The late Congressman John Lewis understood well the power of community. “If you come together with a mission,” he said, “and it’s grounded with love and a sense of community, you can make the impossible possible.” Guided by a sense of shared purpose, that’s exactly what NCFL is doing in communities across the country. We’re doubling down on our work with local, state, and national partners to restore and redesign learning experiences for children and families. Our efforts to advance family learning, prioritize equity, and scale impact reflect our ongoing commitments to making the world a better place. 

This work is only possible with donations, gifts, and philanthropic contributions from people like you. Learn how you can support NCFL’s vision for family learning in communities by visiting our website. Or contact us for additional details on how you can bring this vision to life in your community.


A lifelong educator and national thought leader for teaching and learning, Dr. Felicia C. Smith brings decades of valuable experience to advance NCFL’s mission of working to eradicate poverty through education solutions for families. Having served in a variety of leadership roles in P-12, higher education, nonprofit, and philanthropy, her career has allowed her to experience leading systems and develop a unique vantage point of a learner’s educational trajectory from preschool to adulthood. Smith holds an Ed.D. in education leadership and administration from the University of Kentucky, and an M.A. in elementary education with an emphasis on K-12 literacy development and B.S. in elementary education from the University of Louisville.

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