When youth are given opportunities to be agents of change in their communities and their world, they do more.
It has been with great passion that I have touted youth empowerment in both the classroom and the community. One of our partner schools, Environmental Charter High School (ECHS), does an extraordinarily good job of making their classroom experiences relevant to today’s kids. It is perhaps for this reason that ECHS needs your help. Over the next three days, you can VOTE on which 2010 graduating class should earn President Obama as their Commencement Speaker.
ECHS students found out last week that their school is a finalist in President Obama’s first annual Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. Abbreviated R2T, the program is designed by the United States Department of Education to spur progressive reforms in state and local K-12 education districts. R2T is part of Obama’s push to ensure that by 2020 the United States will have, once again, the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
More than 1,000 schools nationwide entered the contest, which required student-written essays to be submitted about how their school has helped them prepare for college. ECHS also created a 2-minute video sharing how education empowers kids.
As an organization certified by the White House to give out the President’s Volunteer Service Award, KooDooZ knows the value and honor of having the Executive Branch in your corner. So please spend a moment reading why ECHS earned our vote:
Over the last nine months, KooDooZ has interacted with ECHS students through a unique Internship Program that requires participants to take on an array of KooDooZ learning challenges. Content for the program is designed to create a hands-on service learning environment where kids discover how to turn their passions and goodwill into achievements and strategies for creating change.
Our interns are exposed to the initiatives of both nonprofit and profit-for-purpose partners with which KooDooZ is strategically aligned. A successful outcome of the Steering To Empowerment program is having the students see themselves as global citizens and social intra/entrepreneurs.
Recently KooDooZ asked our ECHS interns to create marketing materials for the benefit of Go Campaign‘s Kawangware street children initiatives.
First our interns were tasked with understanding why Kawangware is one of the largest slums in Kenya. Then we asked them to consider these facts: (i) 65% of the Kawangware population are children and youth; (ii) these people live on less than $1-dollar a day; (iii) there is no viable access to proper education; (iv) there is a limited clean water supply; and (v) due to their poor living conditions, these people are subjected to controllable diseases that continue to take lives.
ECHS students were asked to reflect on self-sustainability opportunities that could be provided to help get Kawangware kids off the streets. Only then, did we ask these interns to create colorful cards that would couple the Kawangware street kids greeting cards and custom silk screened gift bags that they are taught to make from recycled paper to sell to the safari tourism industry.
Weekly meetings with a KooDooZ team member helps the interns organize their ideas, come up with strategies for implementing activities in their community, and creates a forum for sharing with the rest of the group.
Self-selected by the students, the next KooDooZ learning challenge our interns will take on is a book drive to help low-income families recognize the importance of reading to their children at an early age. This decision was made after they learned about the alarming rates of illiteracy, especially among their peers around the country. Collecting books that people have already used and donating them to places in need not only supplies essential reading materials to organizations and people without access, but also gives a book a second life, promoting reuse and repurposing.
From their Green Ambassadors program, where students are guided to critically examine and take action to solve environmental challenges, to their countless awards, ECHS clearly is a school that deeply believes in having education accompanied with real world practice. Today on behalf of the KooDooZ team, I’d like to congratulate ECHS on all of their many accomplishments.