By Marcia LaSalle, TRiO
We’ve all met young people, and I know that many of us have strong opinions about them. Teenagers, millennials, youths. Call them what you will, but also give them their own voice.
I’m going to challenge you for a moment, are you ready? Put your pen down, forget about the big meeting you have coming up for a second, just imagine with me. You’re sixteen again (with all the horrendous hormones and hairstyles to boot), you’re waking up at what seems to be the crack of dawn to go to school. You get on the bus (or maybe you’re one of the lucky kids who has their own car), and go to school. How many genius ideas did you have in the span of those hours? Did you come up with the solution to world hunger in gym class or cure cancer in chemistry? Probably not, but I’m positive you had thousands of thoughts that were never vocalized.
Now the reason I asked you go down memory lane was to bring up a point. How many times in your young adulthood did you have an idea that was ignored by adults? How many times did you feel like “adults were being unfair” and not giving you the time of day? Now are you starting to see where I’m going?
I’m 23, young (maybe naive), but I have a lot to say. I have opinions and education and experience to back up how I feel, but that's not why I’m writing. This isn’t about me. My daily life has started to revolve around this amazing group of 14 students. You might have heard about them if you’re paying attention to the 90% by 2020 initiative. The Graduation Youth Task Force is truly the most stunning group of young people I’ve ever met.
There are tons of people in this city who focus on young people every day and honestly if you were to go and talk to them, I’m sure they would tell you all sorts of stories about amazing young people in our city.
WARNING: The following is an extremely biased statement:
Those other people may say things like “My students (kids, young people, youths, etc.) are the best ones in the city!” but they’re wrong. Mine are. They actually are. I’ve even compiled some data for you about them!
They won the the 2016 Outstanding Youth Group in Philanthropy from the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Alaska Chapter.
To date the students have a total of 1,451 volunteer hours since March 27…
They have presented to groups across the city, including United Way’s Leadership team, the teachers at East High School, the freshman class at East and West high schools, parents at the Bartlett open house, the Anchorage School Board, Wells Fargo representatives from the West Coast, and many more.
They’ve made a quadrilingual (?) (four languages) video aimed at parents. The kids came up with the storyboard, filmed, directed, and produced the video.
They’re all in classes above grade level, including AP (Advanced Placement) and IB (International Baccalaureate) classes.
Ten of the fourteen of them claim English as their second language, and quite a few speak a third.
And that's just a few things. Talk to them about their lives, better yet, I’m going to see if they’ll write a few posts, then you can really see.
All in all, this a group of world changers, and they’re all under the age of 18. Indulge me while I tell you a few short stories:
During the school year, we met for 2 hours a week. Over the Spring, the students were learning about what problems we face in Anchorage and across the country in relation to graduation and attendance rates. When we started planning projects, and moving into the summer months, we needed to change our schedule. Originally they asked to meet twice a week for two hours each time. The next week they came back to me and asked if we could meet twice a week for three hours each day. To say I was shocked is an understatement. I talked them down to a three hour and a two hour meeting a week, for a grand total of five hours a week. I think one of the strongest narratives that I heard over the summer was that we needed more time together to finish our work. Seeing such an engaged group was equally shocking and motivating.
Every year there is a conference for all the TRIO programs in the Northwest. My supervisor, Kaitlin and I planned to present. As life happens, I didn’t end up getting to go, but Kaitlin still wanted to present. So I made a video asking the kids questions about what the Task Force has done for them. Watching the full videos from each of them was so validating. I can see how they’ve grown on the outside this year, but hearing about how they’ve grown from the inside is just as astounding. Here is the link to the video so you can hear their perspectives. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZaaRiVJXbJg) Seriously, these kids rule and I want EVERYONE TO KNOW!
That’s all I’m going to write, but I could honestly talk about each of these students for days and weeks and months and years, but I won’t do that here. Come and talk to me more about them, because they are one of my favorite topics. Oh, and go check out our page on the 90 by 2020 website to read more about each of them. And if you feel like you want to spread the word about attendance and the message that young people can share, share our “Attendance Matters” video! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhSndOwY46U)