In a community that promotes diversity and awareness, it is unfortunately difficult to hear the voices of those in actual need of support. Adolescents, both disadvantaged and not, are an age group that is misunderstood and rarely taken seriously. So how do we redistribute power to them? How, in an age of technology, challenged ideologies, and troubled education systems, do we hand power to those that, on the surface, have little chance of changing it.
Thomas and Ali set out to do just that. Our group attempted to solve, or at least bring awareness, to the troubles that plague this country’s education policies and those that are affected by it.
We both spent their Winter terms volunteering for two separate high schools. Thomas at Roosevelt in St. Johns, Ali at Madison on 82nd. Ali worked with a mentoring program virtually, and developed skills to help her students search for information that wasn’t handed to them directly in their classes. Thomas worked with the Freedom Fighter Project at Roosevelt, a group of young writers dedicated to bringing the stories of their neighbors and communities into formats that were more accessible to them. By joining forces, we attempted to help the Freedom Fighters create a layout of fundraising techniques.
We started by developing an outline for future fundraising ideas and community support projects. By starting the Freedom Fighters with an outline, we left room for them to add to it, to bring their thoughts and ideas, thus giving them a little more creative freedom to move the project in a direction they wanted. Becoming inclusive with the goals of the project was key to encouraging a space of equality.
We then set up a Facebook page for the Freedom Fighters, but left it in their hands to create social relationships with Roosevelt alumni, neighboring businesses and supportive community members. By using a platform the students are already familiar with, they can easily build on this page, furthering their community reach and showing their supporters their intent on growth.
Even with all of this energy and care, we were not able to finalize our goals with the Freedom Fighter group. Many struggles plagued us throughout this term. Other members leaving, inconsistent information with community partner leaders, disorganization within the FFP to start fundraising at a reasonable time. All of these hiccups occurred, yet we still tried to continue with our project. We continued because this was a perfect example of “how schools work (or don’t)”. We both recognized that this was a situation in which we could still support the goal of the project while maintaining a sense of structure for the students and their future endeavors.
Redistributing power to a generation of youth is challenging. They have been fed a rhetoric that hasn’t been supportive of students needs. We attempted to create tools and techniques to pull them away from this rhetoric and help them start their own support system. Although our plans were never put in play, we are both thankful we had an opportunity to see the ups, and especially the struggles, of working side by side with a hopeful community group. We hope to work with more youth in the future, to help them recognize their potential and gain their own power, with us comfortably at the sidelines.