Personality: Dr. Cyrillene ‘C.C.’ Clark
Spotlight on board chair of Voices for Virginia’s Children
8/12/2021, 6 p.m.
With school about to begin for many of Virginia’s youths, and the COVID-19 pandemic still posing a danger to public health, the work of Voices for Virginia’s Children and its board chair, Dr. Cyrillene “C.C.” Clark, is more important than ever.
The Northern Virginia resident has been leading the Henrico County-based nonprofit since January, and she is fully aware of the value the organization brings to Virginia’s children at this moment in time. She is more than happy to do her part.
“I’m grateful to be able to do it,” Dr. Clark says. “I can’t imagine a more important thing than to have the opportunity to help lots of kids by impacting laws and systems.”
The mission of Voices for Virginia’s Children is quite simple: To champion public policies that improve the lives of Virginia’s children.
The organization collects and analyzes state data through its Kids Count Data Center and uses that information to address issues in education, health and mental health, economic security, foster care and adoption, and racial disparities that impact children.
Their efforts are all centered on building a comprehensive policy agenda they can take to legislators and ensure a better environment for Virginia’s children.
“What happens in childhood, what happens to children, creates who we are as adults and affects our entire society,” Dr. Clark says. “There is no more important lever than a good childhood for a thriving, equitable, peaceful society.”
In its 27-year history, Voices has been instrumental in ensuring 4-year-olds have access to pre-kindergarten classes; that broader access to mental health treatment is available for Virginia’s children; that children in foster care have greater opportunities to establish permanent family connections; and that appropriate day care is available for children from low-income families.
From Aug. 22 through 28, Voices for Virginia’s Children is hosting its second annual Racial Truth and Reconciliation Week, featuring a series of virtual seminars and sessions on a variety of topics, including disparities in COVID-19 and its impact on Virginia’s children and families to diversity and representation in literature.
The week culminates with a rally 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 28, at the Bell Tower in Capital Square in Downtown where children’s advocates and allies can show their support for social justice, racial healing and policy priorities to help children.
A schedule of events is available at https://vakids.org/rtrw-2021-full-schedule
The week will “bring people together to have honest and forthright conversations about race with the aim of promoting healing, reconciliation and justice,” Dr. Clark says. It also will allow the nonprofit to further improve their work through a focus on the issues and needs children are facing.
Dr. Clark first joined the board of Voices for Virginia’s Children in 2018, at the recommendation of a former boss already serving with the group. In her current role as chair, she ensures their efforts to lobby for public policies that improve children’s lives are run efficiently and properly.
Voices has had to adopt a number of virtual methods during COVID-19 to maintain their work, which includes collaborations with partner organizations and grassroots groups. They also have had to adjust their advocacy with the advent of new resources, like those from the federal American Rescue Plan, to ensure its best use in the long term. Dr. Clark says the organization’s staff has been quick to seize the moment.
With a goal of spreading greater awareness of Voices for Virginia’s Children, and an ongoing goal of helping children in the state thrive, Dr. Clark is clearly committed to the nonprofit’s mission. And she’s hopeful that the work being done to promote the group and spread its efforts will bring others into the fold.
“I’m proud of Voices,” Dr. Clark says. “We’re the preeminent organization in Virginia speaking for children. Regardless of the strange circumstances right now of the world, I just feel really thankful that they can do that.”
Meet a leading voice for Virginia’s children and this week’s Personality, Dr. Cyrillene “C.C.” Clark:
No. 1 volunteer position: Chair of the Board of Directors, Voices for Virginia’s Children.
Date and place of birth: Jan. 31 in New York.
Where I live now: Arlington. Education: Ph.D., Industrial & Organizational Psychology.
Occupation: Talent management consultant.
Family: Fantastic husband and two, equally fantastic, recently grown-up kids.
Mission of Voices for Virginia’s Children: To champion public policies that improve the lives of Virginia’s children.
When and why Voices for Virginia’s Children was founded: Ever notice that there are lobbyists for practically every industry, business and association you can think of? Ever wonder who speaks for kids? That’s us! Voices began 27 years ago as “The Action Alliance for Virginia’s Children and Youth.” From the beginning, we were about taking an active role on behalf of children.
Important role Voices plays: The one thing all adults have in common is that they were once a child. What happens in childhood, what happens to children, creates who we are as adults and affects our entire society. There is no more important lever than a good childhood for a thriving, equitable, peaceful society. Therefore, we are staunch and unapologetic advocates for children in Virginia.
Voices’ relationship to state government: We are a non-profit. We are independent. We are strictly nonpartisan. Through our Kids Count Data Center, we provide information to legislators and others in our Commonwealth’s government so that they have the facts they need to make decisions that impact children. In addition to providing data, our policy team forges relationships with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to discuss the needs of children, help them think through how best to serve those needs, and to advocate for new laws benefiting children and their families or caregivers.
How Voices’ legislative agenda is developed: We start with data. Our Kids Count Data Center identifies trends and exposes disparities. We reach out to people in impacted communities and partner organizations to understand needs. Then our policy team defines issues and crafts a clear agenda.
How Voices influenced the establishment of the Marcus Alert: While we did not take a lead in the establishment of the Marcus Alert, we actively served on the Equity at Intercept 0 workgroup that provided input to the Marcus Alert draft plan for the state. Also, we supported a survey that focused on best practices for children and youths and presented the results to all of those involved.
When elected chair of the board: January 2021.
Length of term: Two years.
Why I accepted position: Why not! I can’t imagine a more important thing than to have the opportunity to help lots of kids by impacting laws and systems.
No. 1 goal or project as chair: Enable a very intentional approach to spreading awareness about Voices so that we can better serve children in every part of the Commonwealth.
Strategy for achieving goal: This spotlight helps! Thank you! We’re becoming better known, and we’re better under- standing needs throughout the Commonwealth by bringing on fantastic board members from all over Virginia. Our board members will become more visible in our communities. We also have a new CEO who brings years of nonprofit leadership experience and new ideas to propel us forward.
Declaring racism as a public health crisis in Virginia: Delegate Lashrecse Aird, who represents a district that includes Petersburg and parts of Chesterfield, Prince George, Dinwiddie and Hopewell, introduced and championed the House Joint Resolution that passed in February. The resolution defined racism as a social system that unfairly disadvantages some and advantages others. Voices supported this resolution as racial inequities substantially contribute to adverse outcomes for Virginia’s children.
Allies of Voices: Voices’ allies consists of anyone who cares about kids and is willing to act on their behalf or fund action on their behalf. We value the lived experiences of children, youth and their parents and encourage their engagement, participation and advocacy in creating more impactful opportunities.
What is Racial Truth and Reconciliation Week: RTRW is in its second year and was the brainchild of Voices staff member Chlo’e Edwards. It is a campaign to bring people together to have honest and forthright conversations about race with the aim of promoting healing, reconciliation and justice. Voices’ focus as it relates to RTRW is squarely on children — highlighting their needs and bringing a more informed lens to our advocacy work. This year’s RTR Week will be Aug. 22 through 28.
Role the grassroots community plays with Voices: Voices connects with grassroots organizations as well as individuals with lived experience related to the issues about which we advocate. We listen, mobilize and sometimes provide training. We use what we learn from the community to inform our policy agenda.
How I start the day: John McQuiston II writes in “Always We Begin Again,” “Each day carries the potential to bring the experience of heaven; have the courage to expect good from it.” I hadn’t always thought of expecting good as a courageous act, but I do think it requires faith and courage. I try to embrace that outlook.
Three words that best describe me: Attentive, determined and focused.
Best late-night snack: Homemade pound cake.
How I unwind: Taking a walk.
What I am learning about myself during the pandemic: There are so many new things I’d like to try. I didn’t have time to think about that when life was busier.
Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: Ice skate.
Quote that I am most inspired by: “Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.” — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
At the top of my “to-do” list: Making sure my kids are successfully launched.
Best thing my parents ever taught me: The importance of education.
Person who influenced me the most: Of course, my parents were enormously influential. In addition, I “adopted” a neighbor to be my grandmother since my grandma was in Barbados. There is nothing like the wisdom, perspective and calm temperament of older people to help children as they grow up.
Book that influenced me the most: “Coming of Age in Mississippi” by Anne Moody.
What I’m reading now: “The Emancipation of Evan Walls” by Jeffrey Blount.
Next goal: My ongoing goal is to help kids thrive.