The Measure of America project, sponsored by the Social Science Research Council defines disconnected youth as “…teenagers and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither working nor in school. There are 5,527,000 disconnected youth in America today, or one in seven teens and young adults (13.8 percent).”1
The study of resiliency goes back several decades. However, recent economic challenges, natural disasters, and the prevalence of violence, among many other factors, have brought a laser focus to this growing body of research. Although I can’t bring my own personal research on the topic to the table, I can bring my personal observations of 20 years of working with children faced with the challenge of overcoming adverse situations. The research questions to be answered are two-fold:
A few years ago I had the opportunity to spend some time with Missouri Senator Roy Blunt. We were walking around a retrofitted big box store at Joplin's Northpark Mall that had been converted into our temporary 11th and 12th-grade campus following the Joplin Tornado that destroyed our only high school.
As we walked the hallways of what was soon to become home to 1,000 high school juniors and seniors for several years, he lamented on his personal experiences as a teacher, as well as some of the lessons he taught his own kids as they grew up. During our time together, he shared how he used the mathematical concept of trajectory to encourage his students and his own children to think about their approach to life as small incremental changes that can lead to huge improvements.
In one of my recent blogs, I shared my thoughts on the importance of building relationships within the school with a commitment to follow up with a Part 2 focusing on relationships outside the school. (Click here to read Part 1) Over the past 20 years, I have had the opportunity to work with community partners in a variety of capacities. I have also learned that among school districts, buildings, and classrooms - school/community partnerships range from doors wide open to closed with a lock on the front door. No question there has to be a balance, but it is important to err more on the side of an open door policy than a closed one.
We acquired the word "mentor" from the literature of ancient Greece. In Homer's epic The Odyssey, Odysseus was away from home fighting and journeying for 20 years. During that time, Telemachus, the son he left as a babe in arms, grew up under the supervision of Mentor, an old and trusted friend. When the goddess Athena decided it was time to complete the education of young Telemachus, she visited him disguised as Mentor and they set out together to learn about his father. Today, we use the word mentor for anyone who is a positive, guiding influence in another (usually younger) person's life.1
In the late 1990’s when I first started taking classes in school administration, one of the required courses was titled, “School Community Relations.” The class included a textbook by the same name with content including media strategies, theories and practice on parent/community involvement, legal issues, etc. The unfortunate truth is this graduate class did little to prepare me for the complexities of community relations. Certainly, experience is a great teacher, but there have been many “I wish I had only known…” moments in my attempts to build stronger partnerships between my school and community.
Topics: Community Engagement
As you read this blog, please understand I believe that the vast majority of education policy-makers on both sides of the political aisle are coming from a pure place. I want to believe their common ground is a sincere desire to grow generations of youth that are prepared to support themselves and their families while keeping our states and nation globally competitive.
Topics: Education Policy
The genetic makeup of humans gives each of us our uniqueness. Not only do we look and act differently, but we also each possess gifts and abilities that are a direct result of what is in our DNA. How we respond to our environment, our susceptibility to disease, and even our life expectancy is largely dependent upon our genetic makeup. We are also very adaptable. As we become more aware of our own unique strengths and weaknesses, we find ways to compensate for our shortcomings and build on our strengths. That awareness, and our ability to respond, plays a major role in our quality of life and general happiness.
Following Hurricane Katrina, researchers began trying to identify factors that make a community better prepared to respond and rebuild following an unthinkable disaster. After the destruction following the Joplin, MO tornado in May 2011, Joplin became a focal point of this research due to the community’s ability to rally quickly after the storm. It was a point of pride for the citizens of Joplin as people around the world were inspired by the “can do” attitude and resolve of Joplin in the face of a seemingly insurmountable challenge.
Now that the 2016 presidential-primary election season has arrived, I offer a homework assignment for our candidates.Many questions will be raised in the coming months. However, in my view, there is one question that supersedes all others because it zeroes in on the heart, values, priorities, and vision that those vying for America's top political office should have.
Topics: Breaking the Poverty Cycle