|Investing to make sure all youth are connected by 25|
We just wrapped up the annual YTFG meeting. It was just chock full of ideas to push our thinking about how we can improve our work together. It was also chock full of great things happening around the country.
1. Reengagement Centers: Cities and districts around the country are recruiting students to stay in school and re-enroll with reengagement centers that try to find a helpful place for students. Bringing together cross-system partners, they also help districts put together plans that provide support. We heard from TEEMGateway of New Jersey, where the model is spreading with Newark, Camden and Trenton. The D2 Center (Directions.Diploma.) in Omaha have opened their door in a mall with the support of the SherwoodFoundation.
2. The Window of Opportunity is Open: It’s clear that with the White House Council on Community Solutions, the AspenForum on Community Solutions, and Opportunity Nation, national leadership is getting behind youth. (One funder pulled me aside to say its partially because business has figured out that if they don’t do something, there won’t be enough consumers in the coming years!) The assumption is that we can’t get federal dollars, so the focus is to build up proof points and excitement from the ground up. I don’t think that’s enough though--we need an organizing strategy to turn that into public will (i.e. power). As one person said, “This is ours for the taking.”
3. Trauma-Informed Systems: Dr. James Henry, Children’sTrauma Assessment Center and DiannaWalters, Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative gave a fantastic presentation on how youth-serving systems are beginning to understand trauma, how it impacts our young people, and what we can do to ensure that we have trauma-informed systems. I’ll write more on this later, as it is so important. Bottom line: There are two things to remember:
- If we operate in a way that assumes that young people have been traumatized, that they believe that they are bad or have done something wrong, we can open our hearts in a way that builds the relationships they need.
- Those of us working with traumatized youth experience secondary trauma. We see the brutality of the world and are hurt by it. So we need to create organizations that support the resiliency of our workforce.
4. Detroit is a Hub of Innovation: We visited Henry Ford Academy’s School for Creative Studies and Plymouth Educational Center Preparatory High School based in Youthville. Everywhere we turned young people had opportunities to explore their talents and interests, learn problem-solving skills, and push themselves outside of their comfort zone (PEC has mandatory Mandarin Chinese classes!) In additional visits on my own, I met with Mary Esselman from the Education Achievement Authority, the LEA set up by the state to manage the lowest 5% of schools. At the heart of their work is student-centered, mastery-based schools that meet students where they are and organize resources to get them where they are going.
5. Integrating Education and Employment: For far too long we have seen the choices for young people as either education or employment. There is a growing interest to understand the dynamics between learning and earning as interrelated. Whether it is providing flexibility for students to be in school and maintain a job, or the national policy of college and career readiness, we have moved into a realm where both are seen as important. We aren’t quite where we want to be, but we are getting closer. We need some language to bring this home – we need a framework that clarifies the relationship so that it is crystal clear. But regardless, this is a good thing for young people and for our country.
Wait…there is another great thing.
6. Focus on Inner-Ring Suburbs: For over a decade we have been seeing low-income families moving to inner-ring suburbs. But philanthropic dollars have been slow to follow. In King County (where Seattle is located) the Northwest Team of the Gates Foundation is supporting a collective impact model focused on educational achievement in six inner-ring suburbs. Whereas Seattle has 15,000 low-income children, these districts have 95,000. Funding in inner-ring suburbs is going to challenge philanthropy in terms of staffing, managing more relationships, and spreading dollars over more districts. Yet if we are going to respond to children and youth, we need to face up to the changing patterns of poverty in America.