What is the injustice we are solving?
Lack of guidance and mentoring in the high school and college search process for low-income youth.
Our Compassionate Solution:
To solve this injustice of a lack of academic, professional, and personal development and guidance in DFW Independent School District High Schools
we will address the disconnect between all three of these values, and the lack of a consistent support community
by forming a community that serves youth from 9th grade to 12 grade in aiding them with academics, community service, civic service, professional development, mentoring, college admissions process, high school proceses, and developing themselves into successful future leaders and scholars.
Our Project Plan:
- Our project goals are to develop a community that works in the DFW area, mentoring and guiding DFW Low-Income high school youth who are stuck in a system that is overcrowded and inefficient in going beyond the college admissions process.
- We want develop a curriculum for a full-year program that will allow students to learn about how to succeed and thrive in their respective high schools and then ultimately universities.
- We would like to not only work in Fort Worth ISD, instead also be present in the Arlington ISD, Dallas ISD, and Irving ISD.
- As we are a program that will be based of volunteering and people who are committed to service, we hope to work with many public institutions in each of those cities for both location help, promotion, and ultimately the delivery of affected youth.
We will increase my / our compassion by...
We will increase our compassion by hoping to reach these main low-income communities: Hispanic/Latino, Refugee Community, African-American community, Asian-American Community, and the Middle-Class community who is not privileged enough to cover college tuition, nor qualify for many fo the need-based-aid.
How will you show courage?
We will show courage by not being intimidated at the complexity and the scale of the challenge. We understand that trying to correct a system that has been in place for a long time may not always be easy, but if nothing is done it will result in a worse future.
How will you collaborate with others?
Our leadership team is comprised of a collaborative efforts between Youth Board Directors and Adult Community Leaders that work to discuss possible opportunities and issues. Not only do we have a foundation of volunteering to make our engine run, but we also encourage it in the program participants. Highlighting the fact that it is a requirement to meet a 60 hour requirement for all students, and then additional mentoring opportunities with the younger students.
How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)
In our journey to change the DFW High School Youth problem, we have three simple ways in which we can measure if we are being successful, or if we need to adapt certain aspects of our program. 1. By starting a "trial run" this summer, we will be able to have a first-draft of what our program and curriculum looks like on a relatively low-stressful scenario. Instead of presenting to the ISD's this summer, we are planning on reaching out to our friends/family, but also individually 5 communities that we are all part of and sharing the opportunity that is our program. Once there we will be able to collect an appropriate amount of interested youth, who will be the first students to experience our program. By the end of summer we will have an accurate idea of what worked and what did not. Thus, when our first real launch will take place, we have some concrete evidence of the successes that we had, and why they were. 2. When local organizations and institutions begin to work with us is another way to measure if we are moving in the right direction. 3. We get our leadership team solidified, and completely on track for not only the summer session, but the upcoming projected year. 4. The most important signal that we will be moving in the correct direction will be if we see that we are actually bettering our community through enriching our high school youth and offering the guidance and mentorship that is lacking in the public school system.
- 1. Finalize our leadership team by the beginning of May 2.Begin the process of registering this non-profit 3.At the same time, begin promoting our program to the communities that we are individually a part of to get high school youth into our summer session. 4. Vote on the curriculum that we have planned at a full meeting with the adult community leaders on our team and begin steps to make it happen in the third week of June.
How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?
Before fully developing DFW Champion Youth my perception of the disproportionate levels of opportunity for minority groups in DFW was solely based on my personal experiences and circle. After fully investigating and gaining a bigger picture of what is around me, I began to see this as a true and very present problem in my home. Going around researching and talking to both the people involved in the process, and those who are affected by it have given me a more “well-rounded” picture of what exactly is needed by students. No longer was my picture of need shaped by my experiences fleeing the public school system, and many of my friends simply burning out, instead it was on the numbers gathered from the Federal School Report Cards and the many interviews I had conducted. Gathering and forming the different student personas allowed me to get a better understand of what those types of stories were like, and what exactly were the obstacles that we needed to come up with solutions for. As a whole, the members of DFW Champion Youth got to feel a sense that their unique stories and struggles could be used to help others. This was huge since the majority of times we feel that the obstacles we face are simply that -obstacles- and not experiences that can connect us with people.
How did your community change as a result of your project?
DFW Champion Youth has made more of an impact on our community than fulfilling our mission statement. In the history of DFW there has never been a youth-led and youth-created organization that has aimed to tackle the education inequality in not only one city, one community, but a metroplex. Our identity as members of Generation Z and below have made our commitment to helping our neighbors and fellow community members more personal. When we go out and talk about our solution to such a big and significant problem, we are not simply referring to the youth as a generic whole, nor as just a demographic that has proven itself to rise any occasion. Instead our demographic are our fellow peers, our siblings, our cousins, our teammates, and closest friends. This is powerful in the sense that it allows us to communicate with the world what we are capable of, but also that we are about the things that affect us as a generation. Not only that, but that we have the ability to feel comfortable calling more than just the four walls of our house-home. Dallas-Fort Worth is bigger than just one individual neighborhood or one city. Dallas and Fort Worth share a connection that perhaps can be found now where else in the country. This unique relationship between communities, alongside the interconnectedness of our modern world allows us the ability to expand past previous borders. This helps us connect with other youth all around DFW, but also understand the needs of the different communities we serve. Through DFW Champion Youth our community will not only be witness to the power of motivated young individuals, but also have a tremendous community of youth scholars, servants, and leaders who will forever change the way DFW functions.
How many people were impacted by your project?
Explain how you came up with the number of people impacted by the project?
We came up with these numbers based on the projected number of students for our Summer Session.
How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?
The people who are being affected by this injustice first-hand are in fact ourselves, our neighbors, our best friends, our family. Learning about the people affected by the injustice was both harder and easier than we expected. It was easier in the sense that to reach those affected by it we simply had to go out into our community and talk to those who we already knew. Instead of trying to imagine what statistics looked like, we thought about the stories of our peers and our friends. The same stories that had been told to us in an effort to scare us into staying in school and getting good grades suddenly became the motivation to continue with DFW Champion Youth’s purpose and mission. The hard dame when trying to branch outside of our ethnic and socioeconomic communities. Although sometimes very similar, the struggles of a low-income African-American family are distinct from a Hispanic-Latino immigrant family. Trying to get past the inherent biases the we held were essential for ensuring accurate representation of the communities we are aiming to reach. By sitting down and really defining who our demographic is was a key move in gaining a deeper understanding of the people we aim to serve.
What did your team learn?
Holistically this has been an experience that has taught all of us a diverse set of things ranging from how to start up a website, to how to write emails. The majority of the people who have helped to found DFW Champion Youth have come from little to no expense working with theses “professional skills” that were needed to get to where we are. Bringing a group of youth leaders to work with other leaders has sometimes presented a challenge, as everyone is used to leading from the font. This is an opportunity for them to experience being with others who are of both less and greater experience than them. Truly understanding the meaning of Leadership is something that is proudly stressed at our meetings and activities, since without a full understanding you cannot have a successful leader. Another significant thing that we have learned is the importance of taking careful consideration to always be organized and prepared when it comes to us as people, but also our projects. Many of the skills that we are practicing and using on a daily-basis will not only be useful for advancing DFW Champion Youth, but for their personal and professional lives. Understanding the nature of non-profits and community organizations is something that we are constantly learning about and the impact that they have beyond just the people who participate in them. Through our pursuit of spreading awareness we have come to understand local government and school district lingo and going-ons a level beyond just voting for a representative. The amount of learning that we as a team have done is something that no one could have prepared us for, but something that we would never take-back.
What challenges did your team overcome?
The initial challenges that DFW Champion Youth were all mostly based on the exact duties and responsibilities that each of the Youth Leaders within DFW Champion Youth had to carry out. The first month of our existence we sat down and analyzed what the best way to split up responsibilities was in accordance to the talent and availability of our resources and people. This led to creation of the separate teams within the organization, each with their own director and teammates. Out of this organizational strategy came the teams: Finance Committee, Event and Community Relations, Creative Solutions and Social Media, Dallas Affairs Team, Fort Worth Affairs Team, Public Representatives, Adult Community Leader Advising Council, and ultimately the Board of Directors. Each one of these team holds very specific responsibilities and duties. Once we figured out what each part of our team would do, we got about figuring out our place in the community. We made a list of what exactly constituted as our community, and the details of how we would go about beginning to embrace it. Additionally, as expected we encounter some hidden resistance to the idea that a group of both high-school and high-school graduates could come up with a program that would both be sustainable and complete. The most often question asked was how would you know what exactly students need when you are in fact are going through it? The answer to this question would actually become the strongest reasoning as to why we were qualified to understand the needs of our community and our students. More than anything the fact that we just recently, or will go through, one of the most stressful and important process in our lives was the credibility that we needed. The challenges that we faced were a combination of starting a social entrepreneurship venture, but also the fact that even in 2019 our age is still a cause for uncertainty and doubt.
How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?
DFW Champion Youth could not have been launched without the help of others. The first place to start is in the leadership team that DFW Champion Youth has built and evolved. Our Board of Directors is representative of the diverse and talented group of students that we aim to serve. So having six Board of Directors, one supplemental director, and now two potential board members is very exciting in the sense that the vision for DFW Champion Youth is not just one shared by me. Instead it is addressing a need that others have been witness or victim to in their academic careers. Aside from our Board of Directors, the different Staff Teams have been instrumental in getting us organized but also building up the different parts of our organization. Our Director of Creative Solutions and Social Media is a high school graduate, who is now going on to study Graphic Design and Business at a local university (Texas Christian University). The adults in DFW Champion Youth have also been key in ensuring our journey to reach success, and also in an advising capacity. President of the AT&T Charitable Foundation, Nicole Anderson, has been very helpful in connecting us with potential organizations that work in the same field and are open to collaborations. Additionally, our Adult Community Leader Advising Committee is made up out of adults who are active in serving and improving our DFW community. They have agreed to serve in an advising capacity to our Board of Directors and will meet with us once a month to be informed on the affairs of DFW Champion Youth and to share their wise counsel, and potential connections. Another adult that has been key in ensuring the maturing of DFW Champion Youth is Manish Bhatt, Head of Upper School for Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth, Texas. He has opened up the doors of his campus to our summer session, and begin the process of having Trinity Valley School as a community partner. The involvement of others, whether they be in or out of DFW Champion Youth, have allowed us to expand and develop as an organization in Dallas-Fort Worth that is grounded and guided by a diverse set of voices.
What advice would you give to someone starting a peacemaking project?
The biggest thing that you will face in starting a peacemaking project is the vast and overwhelming amount of existing and infant organizations that will cater to your demographic and often times do very similar things as your idea. The key in overcoming this huge obstacle, and distinguishing yourself from the equally passionate, well-intentioned, and capable groups is your ability to recognize the gaps. In every industry whether that be business, medical, or social entrepreneurship there are gaps that the current members and leaders of that industry are not meeting. As a PeaceMaker I would challenge you to look at your grand idea, and then try to find your place in that specific industry or niche. Once you locate either common ground with others or you find an exact copy of your idea; try to find where there is little to no transition between the different projects. This space where no one has reached will be the place that you will have the most success working in. Oftentimes people tend to go to the “hot-button” and most commonly talked about issues, but some research and flexibility on your part will reveal the cracks that actually need the most attention. With a little bit of flexibility and an open-minded you can reach a group of people, or better yet, a whole community of people who have been overlooked or under reached. The biggest thing to starting something out of your idea is the caution to not completely fall in love with your idea. Just like in life, things do not always go according to our plans; so therefore our ideas should not always be strictly set on first glances of a bigger problem.