Wednesday, January 27, 2010

57 million watch NFL game. How Many Spend time Thinking about Consequences of Dropping Out of School?

Yesterday I attended a public forum hosted by The Chicago Urban League, The Illinois State Council on Re-Enrolling Students who Dropped Out of School, the Alternative Schools Network and the Latino Policy Forum.

The highlight of the meeting was testimony by youth who attend alternative schools in Chicago who talked about how important it is for teens to have jobs, as stepping stones to college and careers, to help pay the bills for their own families, and to keep from being involved in negative activities.

More than 20 elected officials attended, along with myself and over 100 other interested organizations.

Jack Wuest does a great job of organizing events like this, and the Alternative Schools Network has all of the publications and media links on their web site.

There were feature stories in Time Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago SunTimes, but how many people are spending as much time reading and reflecting on these stories, as they spent last weekend watching National Football League games?

Jack said "this is important to our Democracy". Is NFL Football as important?

Even if we had millions of people reading the articles on Drop Out Crisis from this week's media, and from the efforts of groups like America's Promise, how do we keep the attention focused on these issues every day, so more people understand the problems, then act in some way to help kids from many locations come through school and into jobs and careers?

One suggestion would be to enlist students as researchers, communicators and leaders in this process. The testimony of students at yesterday's meeting was great. One student did a "rap" that received a standing ovation. However, these were just drawing attention to the problem. They did not draw volunteers, resources and jobs to places on the map of Chicago where youth need jobs, and where youth need business mentors to help them find paths to jobs.

At the right is a graphic created this week by one of the interns working at Cabrini Connections. It shows a map of Chicago, and how one person can recruit his/her friends, employees, faith community, and point them to information such as hosted on the Alternative Schools Web site, or the Tutor/Mentor Connection web site, and point them to programs all over the city where volunteers and donors can help.

In the Video section of the Cabrini Connections web site you can see other ways students can be involved in creating, and distributing the "get informed, get involved" messages on a daily basis, which are needed to build an audience of fans who will take a personal, and passionate, interest in helping youth in America become the leaders of America's future.

Youth as leaders, starts with youth as learners and researchers, then grows to youth as communicators, and youth as mobilizers. These graphics and videos illustrate how youth can use the new social media of the Internet, to mobilize forces for change, and to help them in their own pathways to careers.

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