Youth Speak Out

It is hard to do well when adults don’t expect you to. That is a theme ED officials and staff heard repeatedly at a listening session with 370 youth leaders at the National Urban League conference on July 30 at the University of Maryland.

“We meet with all kinds of groups—educators, parents, government officials—to hear their ideas,” explains Alberto Retana, ED’s director of community outreach. “Too often, we don’t listen to the people who may have the most valuable input of all—the youth themselves.”

Retana has begun a “National Youth Listening Tour” to ask youth about the best ways to meet the President’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.  That goal aligns with the National Urban League’s (NUL) “I Am Empowered” initiative, which includes a call for all youth to be college-ready by 2025.

At the NUL conference, ED and NUL staff and interns facilitated small-group discussions around three areas: family, community and school. Participants discussed what was working and what needed to change in these areas.

In a discussion on teacher quality, students brought up how the best teachers are not necessarily the youngest or oldest, or the ones with the most experience. The best teachers are those who take the time to get to know their students and understand where they are coming from. Teachers should be responsive to specific situations and learning styles, they said. Teachers should care about their students and strive to teach them in creative, engaging and relevant ways.

Retana will lead additional listening sessions in other cities throughout the U.S. in the coming months. Youth forums have also occurred in Chicago and Philadelphia last week.

Among the questions being asked at the listening sessions is this: What needs to happen in our families, schools, and communities to ensure that more students are prepared for, enrolled in, and complete a post-secondary education?

You are invited to respond to that question.  Please post your comment here.

Mallory Easton, Office of Communications and Outreach

3 Comments

  1. Several key things must happen across the social continuum of a student’s family, school, and community.

    Foremost, I think the family environment is key to a student obtaining post-secondary education. Parent(s), or guardian(s) must strive to help the student see a vision of how education will bring happiness, success, and empowerment to help others. Second, the family lifestyle should include moments where the parent/guardian spend time to examine a student’s goals, and help them to plan and record progress. Finally, the family must give love and unconditional encouragement in all cases. This will bring priceless confidence.

    The school institution needs to crack down on intra-student emotional abuse, physical abuse. While stricter enforcement may be needed, the school should research additional methods to accomplish this task. It is 100% requisite that a student has a safe environment in which to excel. This will also give the instructors greater quality time and an ambiance in favor of learning.

    Last, the community should promote functions that bring students into the spotlight for academical involvement. This does not include only academic excellence, but simply measured effort to excel. Students, and groups of students should be rewarded through publications as well as small prizes and privileges.

    It may have been Emerson who quoted: “The secret in education lies in respecting the student.”

    Kristi

  2. What needs to happen is that students are not being challenged early in life. It’s too late by the time they arrive in High school to be talking about college. It needs to happen at the elementary level. I still remember as a sixth grader in Houston being told that I had to pass the state exam in Texas callas TAAS.

    Agreed.

  3. What needs to happen is that students are not being challenged early in life. It’s too late by the time they arrive in High school to be talking about college. It needs to happen at the elementary level. I still remember as a sixth grader in Houston being told that I had to pass the state exam in Texas callas TAAS.

    I was told this in middle school and high school and my goal was to pass this test so I could graduate. I wish I had the vision to complete college when I was in elementary school. Even though I finished and completed grad school I still look back and think about why I never envisioned myself going to college.

    Simple truth is that educated people don’t want to be or live around uneducated people, there is too much of a gap. So the culture around students is never about academia.

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