Sorry for all the posting-spam! But you should also check out this YouTube video of our work last year. And you get to meet some of the kids and their teachers!
I can’t believe the summer is almost over! This summer was very busy on top of entering data and preparing for the SLP school year. I was doing a lot of training up till now and learned a lot of new useful skills thanks to my mentor and Executive Director. Perhaps the most important for skill I learned this summer is organization - a training that happened over the last few days. I am abadprocrastinator sometimes. My excuse is usually because my best ideas come at the last minute. But since this year is going to be especially hectic, I need to become more organize and prioritize things. My Executive Director is amazing at this. He utilizes every minute of his day for productivity. It is important for me to follow this model because I want my instruction, leadership, and students’ results to be successful!
In the last few weeks, I ran some sample meetings in front of my team. This included team building, leadership competencies, and action planning. I have to admit it’s very hard for me to run this in front of adults. I always get nervous! However, when I am in front of the students it is a much different story. They always calm me down and we have great conversations. But the students and I know when it’s time for business.
I am truly excited to make a difference this year from a different standpoint. Last year, I was just an intern helping my Executive Director. Now, I get to help run the program on my own at another school. Time really flies by (just look at this summer!!!).
Pic with my team last year :)
This is of me attending the GradNation conference through the Blackstar Project (thanks to them for including it in my duties!) and Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation. The goal of this conference was to discuss avenues for creating a nation in which at least 90% of our students graduate high school.
Why Are We Not Learning From Other Countries’ Educational Successes?
It is sad to see the summer coming to an abrupt end. This concept is something very difficult for me to believe. My summer experience at the Blackstar Project has taught me the importance of education and not just learning in the school books but outside of them as well. For example, one of the largest projects of the year involved the “Take your child to school” day run by Blackstar Project on a global bases. It is with this event that we inspire parents, in particular fathers, to take their children to school on the first day of classes throughout the world. Often in America, we do projects meant to help the world on a global scale, such as this project. However, after working with the Blackstar Project and learning so much from my seniors working there, it left me questioning, how much do we as Americans seek to learn from other countries. Meaning is America the only country that can teach someone something, or should we be seeking to learn from other countries and participate in global initiatives lead by other countries? Overall, I have been questioning lately how much we, as Americans, limit our educational experiences.
Are not two of the most important points of education to (1) gain an understanding of how much we do not know and then (2) to seek to learn from those that do? Attending the Grad Nation Summit was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Yet, it left me wondering, why is America not taking out the time to seriously learn from what other countries are doing to accomplish outstanding results within their education systems. I found myself constantly analyzing what educational policies work abroad with great success that could be replicated here in the United States.
According to the Bloomberg article, “U.S. Teens Lag as China Soars on International Test,” fifteen-year-olds throughout the United States “ranked 25th among peers from 34 countries on a math test and scored in the middle in science and reading, while China’s Shanghai topped the charts, raising the concern that the U.S. isn’t prepared to succeed in the global economy.” In addition, according to the Huffington Post, the United States is currently rated “average” in global educational rankings. However, according the popular documentary on the state of education in America, although America is not ranked even in the top ten for most educational rankings, and in some cases the top twenty, we do rank high in one category: Optimism. According to one study, American teens ranked #1 in their level of optimism and in their forecasting for future salaries. Meaning, for little work and educational attainment, the average teen in America, more so than in any other country in the world, believes they are going to earn a lot more money than is realistic.
Given this information and having participated in the Grad Nation Summit and the Blackstar Project, I believe the greatest thing about America is our optimism and the worst is our inability to capitalize on opportunities like those of our peer countries. Optimism itself is not bad. However, optimism without an enduring work ethic is a disastrous combination, one that awaits failure. Throughout three days, many leaders posed questions centered on the importance of building a better educational system in America. Grad Nation serves to accomplish two goals, “90 percent graduation rate nationwide by 2020, with no school graduating less than 80 percent of its students” and to “regain America’s standing as first in the world in college completion.” Nevertheless, many leaders failed to ask questions on exactly how do we accomplish this. Although many suggestions were given, very little concern was centered on the fact that perhaps at the heart of America’s problem is not just lack of opportunity, but also a lack of a work ethic at the things that matter.
Perhaps the real problem is our complacency with a subpar educational system currently in place in America. We do not have a solid grasp on the right type of reforms. According to one student leader Johnae Strong, “People might not exactly be complacent, but we are not organized.” After speaking to many student leaders, both at the conference, and in the local Chicago community, I was left wondering, “What is currently being done to address this problem?” According to Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, “President Barack Obama’s administration is promoting national curriculum standards and a revamping of teacher pay that stresses performance rather than credentials and seniority.” According to Secretary Arne Duncan, “the brutal fact here is there are many countries that are far ahead of us and improving more rapidly than we are,” according to Duncan. “This should be a massive wake-up call to the entire country.”
What can we learn from China? According to Bloomberg, “China’s success in Shanghai results from the government’s abandonment of a system of ‘key schools’ for elites and the institution of ‘a more inclusive system in which all students are expected to perform at high levels,’ according the OECD in a recently released report (OECD stands for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). The OECD operates as an international organization dedicated to helping “governments tackle the economic, social and governance challenges of a globalised economy.” In addition, China’s success has also depended on raising the standards placed on teachers and the reduction in rote memorization influenced learning. In lieu, China has given their local authorities and students more choices within their curriculum (Bloomberg).
According to Mohit Jain, Founder, and CEO of Omahacares.org and a student leader selected, on a full scholarship, to attend the Grad Nation Summit in D.C., “I agree that the summit lacked an emphasis on how other countries approach their system of education. That being said, the discrepancies between the systems of education make me wonder if those models would be relevant in the modern day United States culture.”
With an eye towards the future, perhaps the solutions to our problems will not be answered solely based on the judgments of top American academics, doctors, lawyers, and businessmen, but those from around the world as well. As our society becomes more global and as other countries continue to run laps around our educational system in terms of successful policies being implemented and producing great results, it may not be a bad thing to invite those in leadership roles over successful educational systems overseas. Henna Virkkunen, minister of Finland’s educational system, and Heng Swee Keat, minister of Singapore’s educational system, are both head of countries currently ranked #1 in educational rankings across the board, and perhaps should be invited to the next summit or conference dealing with how to better America’s educational system.
And it begins!
School has started for all of the counties in the metro Atlanta area. For Junior Achievement, this means that we are finalizing the preparation for work in the schools. I’m the only intern left in the office thanks to my unique summer schedule, but it allows greater flexibility and ability to do more projects than one. Soon, we will have our first JA Day of the year where the entire staff goes out into the community to present the programs that Junior Achievement runs.
Because of this work, I have begun working with the volunteers to streamline the training process. Before there would be a point-person for each volunteer who would be responsible for attaching several documents and staying on track of that volunteer to ensure that all materials were received and completed. Now, all of the communication can be found on a consolidated website I created for the Atlanta chapter. Once a volunteer is confirmed, he or she can use that link to see all of the necessary updates, announcements, calendar events, and training materials. I am in the process of linking the website to social and personal media, though that is up for debate. I am also parsing down some of the documents so that they are more succinct and clear given the varying the nature of many of the volunteer roles.
You could assist in one of Junior Achievement’s many events, wherever you live. I’m sure the volunteer coordinator near you could use the help! And more importantly, the children would certainly benefit from your inspiration through fun and relevant financial curriculum.
Check it out! http://ja.org/near/near_map.asp
Thankful to Thrive
Yesterday, I packed my things, said my goodbyes, and turned in my key card, marking my last day at Women Thrive Worldwide. Watching the elevator doors close over the Women Thrive office was bittersweet. I couldn’t help but feel a little sad about my last day – but also so very, very lucky to have had the opportunities granted to me this summer.
What I’ll miss most about Women Thrive is working closely with a small but mighty staff of truly incredible women. Through work, meetings, lunches, and brown bag discussions, I got to make meaningful connections with almost every staff member at Women Thrive. I really look up to these women, who are all intelligent, driven, and hardworking – while maintaining a sense of humor along the way! They’ve traveled far and wide, balance relationships and families with a busy work schedule, and boast resumes jam-packed with experience that I hope to match someday. They’ve all made time to get to know the interns as well, which I really appreciate. Yesterday, the interns had a Q&A discussion with the Co-Founder and President of Women Thrive, Ritu Sharma. For a full hour, she chatted with us about starting a non-profit, finding jobs in the “gender space” (which I’ll touch on later), her experiences as an advocate, and what keeps her motivated. This conversation was one of the highlights of my summer – it’s not every day you get the chance to have such a personal conversation with the President of any organization! I feel incredibly lucky to have found so many role models and mentors in the Women Thrive staff who have offered advice and help to me this summer and beyond.
I think one reason I was able to connect so well with staff is that Women Thrive truly values the contributions of its interns, treating us as equals in the organization. As part of the Communications team, I drafted a number of social media pieces for Women Thrive and updated various parts of our new website, which launched last Wednesday (check it out!) It’s such a rewarding feeling to see my own work on Women Thrive’s communications outlets! Furthermore, from day one of my internship, I’ve been able to attend all staff and strategy meetings, which are usually led by Ritu herself (how cool is that?) Through these biweekly meetings, I gained unique insight into the inner workings, triumphs and trials of a small non-profit. At times, the interns were even invited to share opinions on matters being discussed. I don’t think this level of trust, inclusion, and respect is something you find at just any internship – and that’s another reason I’m grateful to have interned at Women Thrive this summer.
Interning at Women Thrive has taught me so much about the “gender space” as I call it (the community of non-profits/NGOs/other organizations working on gender-related issues). In addition to attending workshops and an advocacy day hosted by our partner organizations, I went to our Gender Roundtable discussion in July, where Ritu spoke on a panel with gender specialists from UNDP, World Bank, Save the Children, and Plan Canada about the global gender gap. We also hosted a mini-conference of college-aged girls from countries like Mongolia, Egypt, and Libya chosen by the State Department for a leadership program based in D.C. and I got the chance to chat with the U.S. representative for the G(irls)20 Summit when she came to visit our office. It’s been truly inspiring to meet so many people doing great work to advance the status of women and girls worldwide. I’m definitely motivated to keep working in the “gender space” and I’ve realized that there are a lot of different ways for me to do that – which brings me some degree of direction and comfort as I head into the job search next year!
That being said, I feel most lucky to say that I’m leaving one great job in the gender space for another that promises to be similarly enriching. Next year, I’ll be employed at the Women’s Center at Georgetown as student staff. I’m looking forward to learning a lot from this position and contributing to such a valuable organization at Georgetown!
I can’t thank the folks at the Show Me Campaign enough for allowing me to enjoy this incredible opportunity with Women Thrive. Nonprofit work is often the most undervalued and underpaid – but in my opinion, has the potential to do the most good. Thank you SMC for supporting my interest in the sector and letting me use my summer to pursue my passion!
CDLs from San Antonio, Tx; Houston, Tx; and Austin, Tx (Me!) with ONE Senior Adviser Michael Gerson.
Also, want to make a big shout-out to ONE Senior Adviser and Washington Post Op-Ed Columnist: Michael Gerson! Michael Gerson has not only been a long time supporter of ONE and our issues, but helped us down here in the Lone Star State kick off our ONE Vote Parties! Here is our ONE Blog to read up on those kick-off parties: Michael Gerson helps kick off ONE Vote in Lone Star State.
Austin ONE Vote Kick-Off Party coming up within the next couple weeks- Stay Tuned!
The Latino Education Crisis: A youthful perspective on failed social policies, Not only a Black problem anymore,…
Did you know that “Latinos have the worst record of completing college degrees of any group; between 9 and 11 percent for the last three decades.”? African-Americans have been making progress throughout the past thirty years having gone to an increase of 18 percent (2006) as opposed to 11 percent (1975). Sadly, it wasn’t until my meeting at the Trustees Alliance and my work with the Blackstar Project during the summer of 2012, that I realized the critical importance that needs to be placed on not just failed social policies, but particularly the failing policies affecting Hispanic youth in America today.
It was through my work with the Blackstar Project and America’s Promise that I realized America’s Promise will not reach our goal of decreasing America’s drop-out rate to 10 percent or less without addressing the devastating situation plaguing the educational inequalities, particularly as it pertains to the achievement gap between Whites and Hispanics (because of the growing Hispanic population). Having lived in both a Puerto Rican and African American household part of my life, it never dawned on me some of the unique challenges facing each group. For example, Hispanics often undergo certain challenges not faced by other groups, such as language barriers. Additionally, according to a report “Challenges and Opportunities to Latino Youth Development: Increasing Meaningful Participation in Youth Development Programs” by Lynne M. Borden, Hispanic youth are much less likely to participate in youth afterschool programs than any other racial group in America.
According to the University of California, San Francisco in, Fact Sheet on Latino Youth: Education, “Latino high school graduates are less likely to go to college than others.” Addressing the educational problems facing Hispanic youth will need to involve more than just adults that are CEO of corporations and non-profits, but also youth. Youth must realize the importance they have in creating communities that are preparing young people more successfully for our global world. As a youth impact network member on the Alliance Trustees, I have learned that youth will serve the most critical role in helping America’s Promise to reach our goal of having a high school graduation rate of 90% in the United States by 2020. In order to address this problem, however, we need Hispanic youth representation as well as more partnerships with Hispanic organizations looking to change the world, community by community.
For those of us born into “disadvantaged economic circumstances” and/or handling language barriers, it is extremely important that we receive a great education. This is because education is the main route to possessing a chance of obtaining economic security and gaining employment that is rewarding not only in America, but also anywhere in the world. Grad nation proposes a solution to this problem: “Grad Nation has two goals: (1) ninety percent graduation rate nationwide by 2020, with no school graduating less than 80 percent of its students and (2) regain America’s standing as first in the world in college completion.” However, youth will play the most critical role in making sure that we all reach this goal for the betterment of society.
Looking back upon just my short time involved with America’s Promise thus far, I must admit, that to date, my most meaningful leadership experience has been my role as apart of the America’s Promise Trustees Alliance. I am humbled by the opportunity I have at hand to express the concerns of youth I have gathered through my experiences working along the gulf coast of Mississippi, the Mississippi Delta, throughout the south side of Chicago, and the largely Hispanic population of Dalton, Georgia.
As I spoke with leaders from College Board, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, and professors from historically Black colleges, I became inspired. I was mesmerized by the room full of people who have not just dedicated hours or dollars to the educational crisis in America, but their lives. I have the education opportunities I have because others believed in me (a person they may have not even known) and I want to be that same source of inspiration for others. I left the meeting realizing the most important message ever, spoken by Harold R. McAlindon, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” This is exactly what America’s Promise is accomplishing with Grad Nation and the Blackstar Project is accomplishing with their educational enrichment programs.