More than 400 youth from over 30 states gathered on Feb. 26 for the National Youth Summit in Washington to discuss the issues that are most important to them. The Summit was a product of last year’s successful National Youth Listening Tour, which held roundtable discussions with youth in 13 cities across the country. During the Tour, Department of Education officials collected the top issues raised by the youth and those became the breakout discussions during the national summit.
During one of the general Summit sessions, each attendee had the chance to vote with keypads to indicate their opinions on a range of issues, including the themes of the individual breakout discussions. The following are the top five observations from the Summit:
1. Young people are motivated to go to college to be role models for family members.
Nearly 9 in 10 students at the National Youth Summit agreed that being a role model motivated their college aspirations. During the Tour, many of the respondents said that they wanted to be the first in their families to graduate from college to encourage their younger siblings and even their parents to do the same.
2. Young people want to have their voice included in teacher evaluations.
Close to 94% of the students at the summit agreed that including student voice in teacher evaluations would be fair. Youth have opinions about the quality of the instruction that they receive, and they feel left out of the debate over teacher evaluations.
3. Contrary to what some may believe, young people yearn for more challenging classes and do not feel that enough college preparatory courses are available to them.
The voting results from the Summit reveal that 90% of the participating youths wanted more challenging coursework available in their schools, and many of the youth agreed that their school needs more challenging courses that prepare them for college and for the SAT or ACT.
4. Young people believe that school climate surveys are an important first step toward improving school safety, but they believe more needs to be done.
Youth at the Summit and on the Tour expressed that some of their schools have such a strong focus on discipline that it creates a prison-like atmosphere rather than an enriching, safe learning environment.
5. Young people wanted to see more collaboration between their high school and colleges.
Nearly 96% of the young people at the Summit agreed that they would like to see more colleges form partnerships with high schools to encourage students to visit the campus, assist with applications, and even to hold some classes on campus.
Holly Bullard is an intern in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the Department of Education