What Equity Means to Me: Kim Goll

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Equity. It is a term heard a lot these days. And yet, if you ask 10 people what it means, you might get 10 different answers. We are pleased to continue our “What Equity Means to Me Series” inviting members of our community to share their insights around what equity looks like in practice. Together, we can move Orange County forward, implementing and aligning with the 10 +1 next steps as recommended in the OC Equity Profile.

Our 7th blog post comes from Kimberly Goll, President & CEO of First 5 Orange County. She shares why equity means doing everything we can as a community to make sure all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Kim is a member of OCG.

Equity Must Begin with a Child’s First Breath

By Kimberly Goll, President/Chief Executive Officer, First 5 Orange County

When, exactly, does equity become an important concept in a child’s life?

The moment he or she takes their very first breath.

A growing body of research is making it irrefutably clear that healthy brain development in infants and toddlers plays an enormously critical role in setting them on a lifelong path of good health, happiness, learning and success. It is impossible to overstate the importance of exposing children to early positive developmental experiences – supported by strong foundational relationships with adults – to help them hit the ground running when they enter kindergarten.

To me, then, equity means doing everything we can as a community to make sure all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Sadly, we aren’t there yet. Many Orange County children – lower-income and Black and Latinx children – are falling behind their peers due to persistent inequities in income levels and systemic barriers to accessing a range of supports from health care to early learning opportunities.

For the past several years, a powerful tool called the Early Development Index (EDI) has allowed child advocates around the world – including right here in Orange County – to peer deeply into the kindergarten-readiness of their communities’ children. Using a set of age-appropriate developmental domains, the EDI helps us determine how our youngest children are faring, and then allows us to zero in and engage with specific neighborhoods in improving outcomes for their kids.

Using data culled from the EDI, a recent major study underscored the existence of persistent inequities in the health-development domains, such as physical health and wellbeing, emotional maturity, and language and cognitive development. The study, which involved nearly 184,000 kindergarteners in 98 school districts across the nation, found that inequities were much more pervasive among children from the lowest-income neighborhoods and Black and Latinx kids.

As Americans, the notion that education is the “great equalizer” is deeply ingrained in our collective consciousness; that, by making sure our children have unfettered access to educational opportunities, every one of them has a clear path to achieving the American dream, however they define it. Yet for far too many children, that dream is just that – a dream they may never attain due to intractable inequities they face early in their formative years.

At First 5 Orange County, we’re focusing our efforts on removing the systemic barriers that create those dream-denying inequities among our most vulnerable populations of children. The rich data the EDI yields is creating a promising opportunity for us to ensure equity for all of our children.

We invite Orange County Grantmakers and the entire community to join us in this exciting and important effort.

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More To Explore

How do we build a compassionate and inclusive America in an age of distrust? WAJAHAT ALI knows from personal experience that when we come together to be the superheroes of our own stories, we can create honest social change. The beloved TED speaker has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Atlantic about our urgent issues—immigration, politics, parenthood—with boldness, hope, and humor. His memoir Go Back to Where You Came From, one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Year, follows his life as a Muslim Pakistani-American on a surprising, emotional, and challenging quest for the good life. Iconic journalist Katie Couric says that “we are all so fortunate to be on the receiving end of his intellect, his humanity, and his heart.”

Wajahat Ali

“With wit and charm, Ali delivers a masterful meditation on growing up brown in America...he gives us a clear-eyed affirmation of the country America could be.” — Mara Gay, New York Times

Wajahat Ali uses his platform to fight tirelessly for the social change we need in our country—and he isn’t afraid to get personal while doing it. The Daily Beast columnist and former New York Times writer, TED speaker, award-winning playwright, and Peabody-nominated producer of the documentary series The Secret Life of Muslims offers us his experiences of triumph over hardship as a beacon of hope and resilience in the face of life’s impossible situations. From his experiences of Islamophobia growing up as a Muslim Pakistani-American to his two-year-old daughter’s liver cancer diagnosis, Wajahat is living proof that when we share our authentic stories, we build the America we wish to live in.”

In his memoir Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become American, Wajahat teaches us how to create our own superhero origin story, invest in hope for the future of America, and enact real social change. The book was called “biting and funny and full of heart” by NPR. Representative Ilhan Omar called Wajahat’s work “hilarious” and “deeply moving”, and legendary writer Dave Eggers said it was the book he’d “been hoping Wajahat Ali would write for ten years—hilarious, stylistically fearless, deeply humane.”

Wajahat is also the author of The Domestic Crusaders—the first major play about Muslim-Americans in a post-9/11 world. He was the lead researcher and author for the Center for American Progress’s seminal report “Fear Inc., Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” and served as a national correspondent for Al Jazeera America, where he told stories about communities and individuals often marginalized or under-reported in mainstream media.

As Creative Director of Affinis Wajahat Labs, he worked to create social entrepreneurship initiatives to support and uplift marginalized communities. He also worked with the US State Department to design and implement the “Generation Change” leadership program to empower young social entrepreneurs. Wajahat initiated chapters in eight countries, including Pakistan and Singapore. For his work, he was honored as a “Generation Change Leader” by Sec. of State Clinton and recognized as an “Emerging Muslim American Artist” by the Muslim Public Affairs Council. 

He has given keynote speeches around the world such as TED, The Aspen Ideas Festival, Google, the United Nations, and The New Yorker Festival. His writing appears regularly in the New York TimesThe Atlantic, the Washington Post, and The Guardian. He’s a Senior Fellow at The Western States Center and Auburn Seminary and co-host of Al Jazeera’s The Stream.