Investing in Our Future: The Parable of the Bricklayer and the Cathedral

by Karen Kuchenbecker

About five years ago, Charleston embarked on a multi-generational journey to improve our region’s quality of life and economic success through the power of education. Dubbed Tri-county Cradle to Career (TCCC), this initiative works to align each aspect of the learning continuum toward a common vision: where every child will graduate from high school prepared for either further education or a career in the modern workforce.

This grand vision reminds me of the parable of the three bricklayers, where the first says he is “laying bricks,” the second that he is “putting up a wall,” and the third that he is “building a cathedral.” While it’s difficult to see progress in the day-to-day labor of laying bricks, with time, patience, and an unwavering commitment, all Charlestonians will one day be empowered to reap the benefits of a rewarding, family supporting career.

Cradle to Career is a collective impact model bringing together dozens of organizations and initiatives to help children learn and succeed, especially those living in poverty or other unstable conditions. One such initiative, Reading Partners, harnesses the power of community volunteers to help boost reading proficiency in Title 1 elementary schools.

For the past several years, I’ve had the privilege to serve as a volunteer tutor working with some bright yet struggling young readers. I’ve also seen first-hand the passion and dedication of both staff and volunteers in this often up-hill battle for progress.

In our work as economic developers, the Charleston Regional Development Alliance (CRDA) is focused on the “career” end of the cradle-to-career continuum. It is our mission to ensure a durable and sustainable economy by attracting the world’s best companies, talent, and entrepreneurs. In other words, we focus on job creation – the types of jobs that will provide opportunities for both current and future residents. While we tend to the business of laying our bricks, it’s important we don’t lose sight of what we’re really working to create. Heading to the Reading Partners classroom each week, I encounter the shy smiles and shining eyes of our region’s next generation, and the “why” of our work is abundantly clear. By working together, our community is indeed building a cathedral.


Contact Us:


Karen Kuchenbecker | Vice President, Operations
843.760.4534 | karenk@crda.org

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