“A lot of us think we don’t have a voice, but if we all come together and think about what we can do, things CAN get done,” said Jasean Gilmore, a 7th grader at Reavis Middle School in Chicago. This statement represents the energy and hope conveyed by hundreds of youth at U.S. Department of Education’s first ever national youth summit.
On February 26, 2011, nearly 400 youth leaders from across the country made their way to “Voices in Action: National Youth Summit.” The purpose of the event was simple: listen to youth and ask them to join the President’s effort to lead the world in college completion.
The National Youth Summit was more than just a two-way dialogue between policy makers and youth. It also featured “edutainment,” youth sharing their best ideas with each other, and action plans to ensure this is more than a one-time event.
Alison Beth Waldman, a student blogger describes the event. “I’m standing, bleary-eyed, in Howard University’s Cramton Auditorium watching what seems an unlikely group at work: rappers warm up on stage, graffiti artists set up their work, slam poets pace and practice—while White House representatives and the man in charge of U.S. public education take one last run through their event checklists.”
A major highlight was the sharing of youth-led work that is happening in local communities. Here are just two of the dozens of examples that were shared.
- Students in Denver are working with the school leaders to provide student feedback on teacher evaluations; and
- Student leaders in Chicago have successfully created a 9th grade outreach effort targeting students who are not on track to graduate and involve them in youth leadership and peer mentoring.
What is most important is what comes next. The department is keenly aware that creating fundamental changes in education is driven locally. With this in mind, ED has issued a 2020 Youth Challenge to students asking them to organize their own local summit to promote youth-led efforts to drive education reform, raise expectations, and increase the number of students who and apply to post-secondary schools.
Please keep an eye out for a summit coming to a community near you!
For more information, please visit the Voices in Action: National Youth Summit website.