The Most Exciting Thing I Learned at CGI America

Guest Contributor: Ron Stefanski, Executive Director of Strategic Alliances at Cengage Learning


Last year at this time, I shared the exiting news that our Detroit Collective Impact was just getting off the ground and we announced a Commitment to Action with Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America. One year later, our program has received a major honor: being recognized onstage this week during the opening session of the CGI America annual meeting.

I was privileged on Monday to see Cengage Learning’s Chief Product Officer, Jim Donohue, take the stage with former President Bill Clinton and discuss our commitment and Career Online High School (COHS) There was also the opportunity to sit in meetings with former President Jimmy Carter, the Secretary of Labor and activist icon Marian Wright Adelman of the Children’s Defense Fund and meet with Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed.

Cengage Learning at CGI America

Opening reception with Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed
(Left to Right: Howard Liebman , Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed, Ron Stefanski, Kari Greenfield)

But there were a number of milestones recently that have been just as exciting. For example, just two weeks earlier, I was able to attend the graduation ceremony of our first Detroit COHS student, Tina Calhoun.

And just as exciting was the look on Tina’s face when she was notified during her commencement by the dean of admissions at Macomb Community College that she had been accepted into their Childcare Certificate program this fall.

COHS Grad Tina Calhoun

Detroit’s first COHS graduate Tina Calhoun
(Left to Right: Greg McPherson, Tina Calhoun, Kari Greenfield)

Hearing about Tina’s efforts to re-engage in her education struck a real cord with me—and reminded me that an important part of our work is smashing myths about high school dropouts.  Many have veered off the path of their education at a time when a one-size-fits-all educational model no longer works for them.

And this is so true in America’s largest cities, like Detroit. Hearing about Tina’s success serves as a reminder to us all that when we put the learner and their needs at the forefront of our efforts, good outcomes follow.

Seeing the other Commitments to Action at CGI that focused on Detroit featured on stage this year made the event personally exciting for me, as a native and current Detroit resident. After all, my hometown is making a strong sustained comeback after emerging from bankruptcy….a comeback story not unlike the stories of our COHS graduates.

In the meantime, all I could I think about as I left the CGI American meeting was “we’re just getting started!”

2016 CGI America