Six Word Essays: Are You Up to the Challenge?


Is it possible to encapsulate a hope, a feeling, a story in a mere six words?  Inspired by Six-Word Memoirs from SMITH Magazine, the Early Childhood Colorado Partnership took the challenge. In six words, partners described what it would take to buffer the impact of toxic stress in the earliest years. The essays were incorporated at a learning community event on the potential of two-generation approaches. Jennifer Stedron, with Ascend at the Aspen Institute, moderated and provided an overview of two-generation approaches, which provide opportunities for and meet the needs of vulnerable children and their parents together.

During the discussion, we shared the stories. See how we did – and then try your own six word essay.

We started with the why: “toxic stress negatively affects family’s lives.” We zoomed in on the how: two-generation approaches “focus holistically on children and families.”

This is the result:

  • Two lives, one look, infinite possibility,” described Melissa Wavelet from the Colorado Department of Human Services’ presentation.  She discussed how state policies, regulations, and programs can be reviewed and revamped using a two-generation lens.  From TANF changes to the development of a new Children’s Savings Account initiative, the Department has a long-term commitment to overlaying a two-generation framework across agency programs. They have even hired a Two-Generation Manager.
  • Lynn Johnson, from the Jefferson County Department of Human Services, described, “All families have great, deep capacity.” The Jefferson County Prosperity Project provides individualized wraparound supports and services for families in Head Start. The services are family driven, support social connectivity, and foster family resiliency.  County public and private partners commit to weaving together the resources necessary to achieve each family’s goals.
  • The Children’s Hospital Denver embraces these six words: “strong families, committed parents, healthy children.” They support an integrated service delivery system for young children and their families by providing mental health liaison support in primary care settings via Project Climb. Ayelet Talmi described the services and supports provided to both family and child during well child visits and through Healthy Steps Home Visitation.  She also discussed how current health care insurance policies can challenge this holistic, mother-child approach.
  • The Valley Settlement Project is a two-generation model dedicated to “build[ing] a community committed to children.” It was designed in collaboration with Roaring Fork neighborhood through a community organizing approach. Ellen Freedman described how the project supports families to be leaders and partners in their child’s development, in the schools, and in their community.

And my words? “Hope for families. Futures for children. ” What are yours?

Read the event materials and more about the discussion on how to reduce disparities, improve school readiness, and develop healthy children here.

The Civic Canopy is a non-profit organization that designs innovative tools and facilitates collaborative processes that create the conditions for meaningful change resulting in stronger neighborhoods, healthy communities and a more just society.  The Canopy provides the support needed for the Early Childhood Colorado Partnership.