Where Our Kids Empower (WOKE)
Un proyecto de construcción de paz de Darlene F.
¿Cuál es la injusticia que estamos intentando resolver?
In my community and millions across the United States, there is a need for youth activism. Youth activism is youth engagement in community organizing for social change. Youth participation in social change focuses more on issue-oriented activism than traditional partisan or electoral politics. I am particularly concerned with the rising political apathy that exists amongst my community. Many teens simply do not see the point in participating in their local, state and national political systems. This results in low voter turnout, political stagnation and an overall decline in our democratic values. This is especially important to me because low voter participation trends lead to misrepresentation, lack of transparency and corruption within politics. Political apathy most affects disenfranchised groups, such as youth and minorities and as an individual who is at the intersection of theses groups I want to do my part to alter this in West Orange, New Jersey. I believe that misrepresentation and insufficient access to information are the roots of this issue. The lack of adequate political education for youth has created a poor understanding of politics and the role of government in society. Similarly, the lack of diversity and representation within politics also leads to political apathy. When groups feel unrepresented on a political level, they may feel disinclined to take part in the political processes. I envision a world where it is normal and expected for young people to participate fully at all levels of decision-making. Today, the world has the largest and most accessible youth generation ever seen in history. Young people face the brunt of the world’s problems today and will continue to wrestle with them in the future when our current world leaders are long gone. So, why are these essential contributors still excluded from real-world decision making? Even though many youths are not old enough to vote, they still have real influence on elected officials and other decision-makers. And I believe that today one of prominent injustice facing my commuinty is the ;ack of political spaces and allies for our youth.
Nuestra Idea Compasiva
Para resolver la injusticia de To overcome political apathy concerning youth in West Orange in New Jersey
Abordaremos we will address the lack of political allies and spaces for minority youth
A través de by using seminar discussions to educate and create safe spaces to encourage youth to be attentive of their political beliefs and others.
- Create spaces for diversity of mind, experiences, and expression.
- Educate youth on the broader context of social justice issues through different lens.
- Encourage youth to affirm their political ideologies and be tolerant of others.
- Empower youth to be politically-minded in interpersonal relationships and institutional places
Aumentaremos mi / nuestra compasión por medio de...
* Challenging youth to learn about social justice problems and create solutions * Introducing youth to the ways their political climate affects different aspects of their lives * Allowing youth to listen to and respect each other's beliefs * Inviting youth to develop and discover their own political identity
¿Cómo mostrarás coraje (valentía)?
By practicing tolerance towards all political opinions from different perspectives to gain a holistic view of my community
¿Cómo colaborarán con otros/as?
The organizations I plan to collaborate with are Student Council and Unity Club. Student Council would provide me with resources and a number of students who would be committed to supporting my project. I have connections with members on the Student Council who could get me permission to promote my project by hanging up flyers in school. Student Council is also responsible for morning and afternoon announcements, so I can ask them to give my workshops daily shoutouts. Additionally, the Student Council can put me in connections with the Grassroot Community Foundation. This foundation is headquartered in West Orange and provides funding for community initiatives. I also plan to collaborate with the Unity Club to access some participants and assistance. I have been involved with this club for two years as a participant and leader. In this club, we talk about current events and spark dialogues about these issues. Since my project is aligned with Unity Club I would like to co-create with them so that our projects complement each other rather than compete. I want to encourage students to attend Unity Club to learn about current events and come to my space to learn about how we can digest our world in terms of politics and what we can do to affect it. For example, if Unity Club had a session on the 2016 election I would have my workshop encourage the teen to register to vote, contact local officials, and create banners and posters to spread awareness in the school. These are two organizations I would like to collaborate with.
¿Cómo sabrás que te estás moviendo en la dirección correcta? (¿Cuáles son las formas específicas en que puedes medir tu impacto?)
* Attendance that is consistent (I want to have a body of students that support each workshop. This would show that they enjoy the space). * A diverse pool of participants (I want my project to appeal to people of all grades, ethnicities and political ideologies. This would show that the space is safe for everyone) * Increased initiatives from youth. (I want to also open up workshops for students to suggest their own social justice topics, project ideas, or even facilitate themselves. Seeing youth take the initiative to be more vocal in workshops would reveal that the workshops are having an impact on them). * Much of this change can also be action-based by participants. For instance, an increase in voter registration/ turnout, increase enrollment in social studies electives like Institute of Citizen Empowerment, and Race, Class, Gender, & Ethnicity, as well as increased presence in local government ( actions like this would indicate that students have been inspired to expand the knowledge and experiences they have gained at my workshops).
- * Collect initial suggestions and feedback from the community (what do they think ? would they attend ? what could be improved ?)
- * Get approval from school to execute and promote my project.
- * Coordinate with Student Council and Unity Club to reserve location and time
- * Advertise event through flyers and announcements on the loudspeaker
- * Gather supplies for workshops and promotional items (snacks, vinyl banners, pins, etc)
- * Facilitate first social justice workshop
- * At workshop gather data to measure impact (create tangible ways to measure empowerment, education, and tolerance of new ideas)
- * Collect feedback for improvements/suggestions (ask what was done well ? what could improve ? what should be replaced ?)
- * Use feedback to improve the next workshop
- * Repeat process for future workshops while analyzing trends in the collected data
- * Have an end of the school year kickback for the community to acknowledge the voices of youth through an exhibit of each workshop
¿Cómo profundizó el proyecto la comprensión de la injusticia en tu equipo?
I am wholeheartedly invested in this project because it will assist me in giving back to a community that has allowed me to grow into the conscious person I am today. I affirm myself as an individual with a story, and I boldly share my story. Every story contains a lesson. Growing up I used my family's stories to learn about love, to forgive others, and more. This is no different in politics. We all have stories and each story has a lesson. I would like to not only encourage people to tap into that story but empower them to share it through political means. This opportunity shed a light on the hope and enthusiasm that lies within young people. I was able to engage with and expand these lights through each of my workshops and I hope to do the same during the summer. I learned about the "head", "heart", "feet" of project design. My project emphasized the "head and heart" by creating safe spaces for students to learn about and experience politics through compassion. This fund will give me the chance to focus on the "feet" by encouraging people to perform actions that mirror their beliefs. Being able to focus on the "feet" establishes my project as multifaceted and a metaphor for the full circle I have made. I want to use this fund to encourage young people to practice civic engagement in their lives. This will significantly impact my community. If individuals can refine their storytelling ability they will grow up being more confident in these stories and tolerant to the stories of others. Voting and democracy go hand in hand in a nation. They provide people an opportunity to voice their opinion, support what they believe in, hold elected officials accountable, and prevent a minority from dictating the policies of a majority. Voting is also a means of expression. Even without voting people will benefit from being given a viable channel to affirm their political beliefs. political apathy will only be corrected once people are given confidence alongside resources to make changes. I want to continue empowering the youth, ecause It is the only way that they will have the power to change the world. This project has to lead me to the realizations that my dream is to major in humanities subjects like Public Policy, Law, or Political Science and minor in Africana Studies at Barnard College of Columbia University. I am confident that my portfolio has prepared me for this future and enabled me to begin my exploration into a career as a community leader and activist. This experience will provide me with real-world experience in politics and guide me towards a potential career in these fields. More importantly, stepping out of my comfort zone with this experience will allow me to embrace a new aspect of my passion while serving my community.
¿Cómo cambió tu comunidad como resultado de tu proyecto?
I collected data throughout the sessions that I conducted. I collected data through pre and post surveys for each workshop that I lead. Prior to attending each workshop participants would fill out the Google form that was emailed to them. After completing the session I would send them a Google form a week later. There was always significant changes between the pre and post survey. For example, during the “levels of racism” series, I sent out a survey asking participants to distinguish the different types of racism. They were giving five different scenarios and asked to identify which were interpersonal, individual, and institutional. In the first survey, participants average score of one out of five. One week after the session participants were given a simlar survey and almost all participants got a five out of five. This is one example of how participants showed growth which is an indicator of impact and change. I did the same for every session. This reveals how changes were made in their minds and ideas for participants who attended.
¿Cuántas personas fueron impactadas por tu proyecto?
In addition to those directly impacted, are there additional people you feel were indirectly indirectly impacted or reached? If so, how many? (This might include people who read about your project, families of people that attended your workshops or received services, etc.)
I had about 100 different participants who attended y session in total. Each session average 20-30 participants and different groups attended different sessions. Additionally, we also created pop-up events such as a black history month and a woman's history month stand. We had students fill out a survey for entry in a giveaway, and counted more than 200 different entries.
¿De qué manera aprendió más tu equipo sobre las personas afectadas por la injusticia?
This year learned a lot about my community. I believe that this opportunity will allowed to emphasize my commitment to the needs of the community. This experience gave me an opportunity to learn about the specific lens of community like inclusion, relationship building, and intent. Promoting Inclusion: Regardless of abilities or personal needs, when individuals feel included in a community they develop a sense of belonging and will invest in it. Fostering a sense of community will demand me to step out of my comfort zone, but it is well worth the effort. I learend about how I can appeal to the needs of the majority so that they can feel included in their community. Specifically, by marketing and leading events, I learned about effective methods to foster diversity in the spaces I create. Relationship Building: Building connections produce invaluable opportunities to grow. I learned how my skills and resources can be an asset to others in my community. Being able to network with relevant organizations and businesses allowed me to expand my impact, build professional relationships and establish mutually-beneficial connections. I learned professional techniques for approaching possible partners and developed my networking skills. Achieving Intent: I learned to be more mindful of my audience and my goals. Since I lead a project for my community I needed to learn to create a brand that is transparent about my mission. I specifically learned to balance intent and impact. The intent is a stated desired goal while the impact is the outcome that actually occurs. I learned how to effectively match these two and clearly define who I am trying to serve.
¿Qué aprendió tu equipo?
The initial goal was to promote civic education. This project stresses the importance of youth who are involved in civics. Civic education empowers us to be well-informed, active citizens and gives us the power to change the world around us. Civic education teaches us what we as individuals can do to protect and support our democracy. In WOKE we came to an understanding of our roles and responsibilities as active citizens while creating a safe space. I often doubted the relevance of my work, but completing this project silenced my doubts. People believe that my generation is so involved in technology that, while they are opinionated, they have no understanding of what is truly going on. However, that is not true at all! Contrary to adults’ common misconception of teenagers not caring about anything but what is happening on their phones, youth have taken it upon themselves to become more educated in the world of politics. Those worrying about uneducated voters, especially of a younger age, will quickly change their minds by attending one of my sessions. Students would come eager and ready to learn. They would also bring friends and increase the impact of the project. I learned about how Rhode Island is failing to teach civics and prepare students to be "capable citizens". I did not know of the 14 students suing a state that provided such a substandard education that it violates their rights under the US Constitution. This taught me that there is importance in the work I am doing. This is not just a club or project. This is an act of rebellion against the curriculum meant to oppress our political freedom. This lawsuit has especially inspired me to continue this project in my professional life as a non-profit for NJ schools or even my inspiring as a political official.
¿Qué desafíos superó tu equipo?
. A lot of the initial barriers for my project came from adults. The first pair was from school administrators who would not initially give me space. I thought many requests to create an actual club at my school. This was constantly shut down, administrators told me that the process will take up to two years. Additionally finding an advisor and a classroom to support my project took weeks. These were just a few of the roadblocks that stood in my way of creating my project. However, I overcame them by taking small steps and creating my own opportunities without their assistance. Rather than trying to gain the support and recognition for my school, I focused my attention on creating a following. By creating a group of people who supported my work and a petition of the students, I was able to prove the relevance of my project which hope to me find a space that was independent from my schools administration. Another barrier from adults in my life came from the doubt. many doubted my ability to execute a project and put down the relevance of it. Adults who ignore the interests of our generation and contribute to the bipartisan political climate are among the biggest threats to our youth In our country, politics is known as a clash between opposed Democrats and Republicans. With no compromise and no middle ground, voting becomes less about making a difference on specific issues and more about keeping a certain party in power. This makes people submit to “the way things are,” which leads to political apathy. Today, there's simply not enough attention to the issues that youth and people of color desire, and this is rooted in our Democrats versus Republican culture. In order for adults to create meaningful opportunities for young people to lead and get involved, they must put aside the red and blues and recognize the pinks and teals. Individuals are more than just political pawns because they have complex stories. Rather than trying to categorize society into boxes we should acknowledge the way our different shades and colors affect our individuality. I may identify as a Democrat but that does not mean I am not a female, a first-generation America, a feminist, and more. The first step in helping an individual, is to see them as one. And so long as adults make politics about two colors we will always be deprived of the countless colors that make a rainbow. I overcame this by purposeful steering the individuality of all my participants and making my space inclusive for all people and minds.
¿Cómo involucraste a otros en el diseño, la realización o la expansión de este proyecto?
The success of my project has relied on the connections I’ve built with other people and other organizations. Are your student council to recruit individuals to attend workshops. I integrated my curriculums with clubs such as unity club so that students could have multiple ways to learn the information. Also, within each meeting, there was never a hierarchy of knowledge, or dictatorship during discussions. I need courage people to take space and make space. Conversations and activities were based on what students wanted to do. Prior to each series I always posted surveys that informed me of what the students wanted so that I could cater to their needs. I also creative planning meetings, where students could come in person and make suggestions for the next one. Furthermore an important aspect of my project with the banners we created after each series. These were never done alone. I always had students contribute to the design and the execution of these posters. I wanted to be intentional that space was for the youth, this was shown through the many ways in which students created the project as much as I did.
¿Qué consejo le darías a alguien que inicia un proyecto de paz?
Most people hide, they make excuses and they choose to delay their desires to settle for “reality”. Consequently, the graveyard holds inventions never invented, businesses never created, and people never realized. You are not in the grave and neither are your dreams. During this project, my anxiety reached an all-time high and affected my entire well-being. My fears had caused me to postpone the launch of my project and I wanted to give up. I spoke to my mother about my fear of making myself and my project vulnerable to the critiques of others. I told her that this was a barrier that had stunted the growth of my project and myself. My mother comforted me as she said: “there’s no such thing as a failure..every NO is just a New Opportunity”. She affirmed my passion and reminded me of the significance of my work. I will never forget when she mentioned Audre Lorde’s quote “when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak”. Opening up to my mother was the most courageous and rewarding experience. Her affirmations solidified the relevance of my project and my confidence in my abilities. I no longer wanted the potential of criticism to impact my own potential for greatness. I did not want temporary emotions to rob me of a lifetime of possibilities. At that moment I was challenged to step out of my comfort zone, and ever since then, I have been running with my project and without looking back. My mother reminded me how precious life is and raised the stake for me to pursue my dreams. I was afraid of vulnerability, but looking at both life and the graveyard inspired my dream. Your dream is so bright that it would only hurt you if I did not let them go. Letting go is the hardest part of having a dream, but it is your choice, not your fear's. No one chooses to die, but in the choice between light and darkness, always choose to let your dreams shine. At the end of the day, the sun shines from the bountiful sky not 6-ft under.