StriveTogether recognizes cradle-to-career leaders at annual convening

Tafona Ervin, The Road Map Project and student artist honored at the event

Chicago, IL, Sept. 22, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- At a convening of more than 500 leaders from across the country, StriveTogether recognized a cradle-to-career champion and an organization for leading equitable outcomes in their communities, along with a student artist. 

Tafona Ervin of the Foundation for Tacoma Students in Tacoma, Washington, received the Bill Henningsgaard Cradle to Career Champion Award. The Road Map Project in South King County and South Seattle, Washington, was named the winner of the Nancy Zimpher Courage in Leadership Award. Winners received national recognition and $1,000 stipends. Twelfth grader Laniah Dennis won the Art Inspires scholarship and earned a $1,000 scholarship. 

Bill Henningsgaard Cradle to Career Champion Award 

As executive director of the Foundation for Tacoma Students, Tafona Ervin supports a talented, passionate team working toward a Tacoma where every child succeeds in school, career and life. That movement is called Graduate Tacoma, and it includes more than 350 partners aligning goals, data and resources. 

Under Ervin’s leadership, Graduate Tacoma has created a space where organizations have shifted from competing for resources to collaborating to build comprehensive supports for kids and families. Ervin has strengthened relationships with key cross-sector partners, like the Tacoma Housing Authority, and championed efforts to center student voice. Colleagues describe her leadership as collaborative, rooted in equity, focused on data, courageous and bold. 

Named in memory of a tireless advocate for youth from Eastside Pathways in Bellevue, Washington, the Bill Henningsgaard Cradle to Career Champion Award is presented each year to a network member who embodies the passion, commitment and persistence Henningsgaard modeled.

Nancy Zimpher Courage in Leadership Award 

The Nancy Zimpher Courage in Leadership Award was presented to The Road Map Project, a Cradle to Career Network member using joy to overcome traumatic pasts. 

“The Road Map Project is walking the talk on centering race and leading with community in service of better and more equitable outcomes,” said Parvathi Santhosh-Kumar, StriveTogether’s vice president of equitable results. 

The Road Map Project leads with community and centers race to get better outcomes for kids, including using data effectively; co-developing solutions with youth, families and residents; and changing internal structures to live into being an anti-racist and values-driven organization. Together, the Road Map Project and their partners are changing who’s at decision-making tables, shifting power and resources to change systems in their community. 

This award is named after Nancy Zimpher, the founding board chair of StriveTogether, who is known for challenging the status quo, taking risks to improve the lives of children and families, and advocating for the inclusion of diverse perspectives. 

Art Inspires Scholarship 

StriveTogether also celebrated a student artist who created a piece of art that connects to one of StriveTogether’s core values. Twelfth grader Laniah Dennis won the Art Inspires scholarship with her oil painting titled “Leap,” which she connects to the value of courage. The painting shows a girl leaping toward a hopscotch board high above the ground.  

“I wanted to depict that bravery and courage should start in early childhood to set up generations, specifically people of color, for a successful future ahead,” Dennis shared. “Courage doesn’t mean knowing what’s going to happen in the end, but it means you’re willing to try despite the unknown.”  

StriveTogether launched the Art Inspires Scholarship in 2018 to support student artists in their educational journeys. Since then, more than 20 students have each received a $1,000 scholarship, and their artwork is displayed at StriveTogether’s Cincinnati office. This year, the winning artwork was displayed at the convening’s opening reception at the Zhou B Art Center, where it inspired community leaders from across the country who are working to ensure the success of every child, cradle to career. 

About StriveTogether  

StriveTogether is a national network of nearly 70 communities across 30 states working to build a future where a child’s potential is not dictated by race, ethnicity, zip code or circumstance. The organization provides coaching, resources and rigorous approaches to create opportunities and eliminate inequities in education, housing and more. Together, the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network impacts the lives of more than 14 million youth — including more than 8 million children of color. For more information about StriveTogether, visit 


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