I teach a class on the literature of civic leadership which is a part of the Institute for Civic Leadership at Mills College. The program teaches women the foundations of leadership in the context of social change and social justice and includes an internship with a social change organization in the Oakland/SF area. One of this year’s students is working with an organization to bring the World Courts of Women on Poverty to the U.S. for the first time. This conference, which takes place in May at Laney College in Oakland, presents a unique opportunity to explore the multiple and complex factors that contribute to the significant number of women (and their families) living in poverty around the world, but more importantly, finding, discussing, and executing strategies that will lift them into self-sufficiency.
To learn more or register go to: http://weap.org/WCW/WCWAbout.htm
This summer, a group of 12 youth from San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley neighborhoods came together to create a project that could very well change their life perspectives for ever. These neighborhoods, and the schools these kids attend, maintain some of the city’s highest truancy and drop out rates.
Two organizations - Southeast Neighborhood Jobs Initiative (SNJI) and Young Community Developers (YCD) - teamed up to conduct an Academic Enrichment (YCD) and Education Leadership (SNJI) program to help the kids make it back into school. Sixty or so kids of varying backgrounds and ethnicities participated in the academic component and some leadership training and 12 stayed on to become the SWAGG kids.
At first, this rag tag bunch seemed uninterested in the issues surrounding school completion even though they are their target population - kids in danger of not finishing high school. During leadership training with the large group, all 60 kids admitted to skipping school more than once in the previous year, which can lead to staying back, parental arrest and dropping out. A significant number of chronically truant youth do not finish high school.
Six weeks later and they are all in and focused on affecting change in the educational system and themselves.
Initially, SNJI planned on holding an education summit but the kids shot that down in the first couple of weeks.
"No one’s gonna go to a summit about education,"
They said, and, honestly, if I was 15, I wouldn’t either. SNJI listened gave them four criteria that whatever they came up with had to meet: 1) Educate kids about the issues around school completion, 2) Gather data about their peers’ behavior and attitudes about school completion, and 3) Come up with kid driven solutions and, 4) Share what they learned with decision makers.
Their charge now, okay, come up with something better, and they did: SWAGG, which stands for, Students Will Achieve Great Goals in 2011 (they thought of that themselves).
On August 9, 2011 they will hold SWAGG Fest, a back to school fair that does those four things. Their event takes place at the UCSF Mission Bay Campus because they want kids to see what college looks and feels like. They want them to get of the neighborhood and see that there is more to life than hanging on 3rd (the neighborhood drag).
SWAGG Fest consists of:
Speak Out! a teen adult dialogue that’s like a talk show opens SWAGG Fest. They love Wendy Williams so that’s their model. They’ve invited Supervisors, Board of Ed members and the Superintendent of Schools to come and talk about their concerns - systemic and programmatic. Four of them went to City Hall last week, knocked on doors and talked to local officials. They got the President of the School Board - whose also the Mayor’s education adviser, to agree to come on the spot.
SWAGG Feud, based on Family Feud, will impart facts about truancy and dropping out. Facts they scouted out themselves. SNJI’s leader, a young man who is himself a drop out and now runs this community development organization,sits on several commissions and is now finishing a BA, will play Steve Harvey and teams of kids will answer questions to win cool prizes.
REAL TALK… They’ve invited five people who grew up in the neighborhood, graduated form high school and are now doing big things to came and share their stories. One owns a record label that was voted best new label at this past spring’s LA Music Festival and another graduated from SF State with a degree in Psychology and is now helping kids from the neighborhood get jobs. The segment is called Real Talk, which is what the kids want to happen: Real Talk between those on the brink and those who stared into the abyss of life with out a HS diploma, and looked the other way.
NEED TO KNOW features local groups who can help kids academically or with finding employment. Organizations kids need to know about to be productive and stay in school. They say one of the biggest problems for kids today is a lack of employment opportunities. Youth were and are some of the hardest hit by the recession and kids from this part of the city need work - not to buy new kicks, but to help put food on the table.
After SWAGG Fest, they’ll take their show on the road and present their findings (they’re conducting a survey and recording the Speak Out! and what comes out of it) with the SF Board of Supes, the School Board and other adults who can influence change.
SWAGG Kids talking to Supervisor Avalos about SWAGG Fest
SWAGG Kids with SFUSD School Board President, Hydra Mendoza
This was supposed to be a one shot deal. Summer only. I’m now trying to find funds for a school year program because they don’t want their efforts to stop now.
These are the SWAGG Kids (well four of them) and they got SWAGGATUDE (they made that up too).
It will not be sufficient …to produce clever graduates, men fluent in speech and able to argue their way through; but rather honest men, men who can be trusted in public and private - who are sensitive to the wrongs, the sufferings, and the injustices of society and who are willing to accept responsibility for correcting the ills.