There is a distinct gap between what it takes to make it to graduation and being ready for adulthood.
I remember looking from one staff person to another. I saw confusion, anger, outright indignation and then I found my own face, hiding in the expressions of a few—a deep sense of regret and shame that came with an acknowledged truth. Just moments before, in the privacy of my office, I had practiced all that I wanted to say but it was even harder than I imagined to say it aloud.
I recently spent two hours with afterschool and community leaders in Milwaukee who are joining together to improve the quality and coordination of youth programs in their city. This was the first “lunch and learn” gathering for partners in the initiative, called Beyond the Bell. The informal Q- and-A covered many topics, from social and emotional learning to common core standards, but one strand of questions were particularly telling.
What does it take to get young people ready for life?
It’s not often that you get to listen in as three high-level thinkers in the youth field gather around a table to tackle such a question. That’s what several hundred of us did yesterday.
These two words get a lot of air time at the tables where coalition leaders exchange ideas about how to create "needle moving change," whether the topic is childhood obesity, teen pregnancy or college readiness. Every group of leaders believes community engagement is critical to success. Every group laments they don't do it soon enough, often enough, long enough or well enough. Post mortems of community change initiatives frequently cite "lack of community engagement or buy-in" as a reason for failure.
Angela Glover Blackwell, CEO of PolicyLink, recently shared her thoughts on the My Brother's Keeper initiative, which was designed by the Obama Administration to address opportunity gaps faced by young men of color to ensure they have the necessary supports to succeed. In her blog posting, Blackwell reasons that, when done correctly, strategies that are targeted at a specific group can benefit all in the long run.