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.