Poughkeepsie: Investing in Youth and Families

A By All Means and Success Planning Community

Image courtesy of the Poughkeepsie Children’s Cabinet
Image courtesy of Poughkeepsie Children's Cabinet.


Rob Watson, now EdRedesign’s Deputy Director, grew up in Poughkeepsie, New York, a small city in Dutchess County, New York at the end of New York City’s Metro North Hudson River commuter line. After graduating from Harvard College, Rob served in the Peace Corps and later worked on projects supported by the UN, the World Bank, and USAID. Rob returned to Harvard to pursue an Ed.M in education policy and management from Harvard Graduate School of Education and a master’s in public administration from Harvard Kennedy School.

My entire life I’ve been chasing the idea of homecoming. It’s only now that I’ve realized that home isn’t just about moving back. It’s a mindset. – Rob Watson. Poughkeepsie on the Rise, May 12, 2021, Harvard Ed. Magazine.

In 2020, Rob partnered with the mayor, superintendent of schools, and community stakeholders in Poughkeepsie to launch the Poughkeepsie Children’s Cabinet to develop a citywide cradle-to-career agenda for children, youth, and families in the City of Poughkeepsie, New York.

The Poughkeepsie Children’s Cabinet was established to create and catalyze citywide systems of support that ensure all children, youth, and families thrive across all aspects of their lives. By bringing together an entire community of leaders and institutions across sectors, the Cabinet strives to address Poughkeepsie's pervasive intergenerational poverty and educational inequities.

The Poughkeepsie Children’s Cabinet houses four Working Groups that convene subject matter experts to develop programmatic and policy solutions for the consideration of the Cabinet Executive Committee and the City of Poughkeepsie community at large. The Working Groups are coalitions of individuals with lived experience and professional expertise tasked with developing a citywide agenda of priorities in key areas of child and youth development. Working Groups are composed of a diversity of community leaders with a demonstrated track record in social impact and who incorporate the perspectives of key stakeholder groups deeply impacted by issues of equity. Working Groups guide the decision-making process of the Cabinet’s Executive Committee and its institutional partners. The four Working Groups of the Poughkeepsie Children’s Cabinet are time-limited, solutions-oriented interdisciplinary teams focusing on early childhood; out-of-school enrichment and learning; college, career, and civic readiness; and integrated health and human services.

The Poughkeepsie Children’s Cabinet is chaired by Poughkeepsie’s Mayor and Superintendent and supported by Dutchess County, which pledged $25 million to build a Youth Opportunity Union, a visionary new community center for youth and families, located in the heart of Poughkeepsie.

Poughkeepsie is a member of both EdRedesign’s By All Means coalition and our Institute for Success Planning’s Community of Practice, integrating cradle-to-career collaborative action and relationship-based personalized supports and opportunities for children and youth. Poughkeepsie began their Success Planning initiative serving seventh graders with plans to expand to their pre-K to 5th graders. Poughkeepsie recently received a $2.5M federal Community Schools grant from the US Department of Education to support its Community Schools initiative in its elementary schools, connecting them to community-based organizations, healthcare providers, and local agencies serving children. Part of the funding will be used for Poughkeepsie's Success Planning work. EdRedesign was one of Poughkeepsie's national partners that supported their federal grant application.

First Lady Jill Biden visited Poughkeepsie’s DAY ONE Early Learning Community, one of our national partners, to learn more about their efforts to reimagine early childhood development in the region and create a national model for local talent development through a reinvigorated early child workforce. Our Deputy Director Rob Watson was part of the team that welcomed Dr. Biden and US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

First Lady Jill Biden visited Poughkeepsie’s DAY ONE Early Learning Community
Image courtesy of DAY ONE Early Learning Community.