1. Charting a Path to Graduation
Each year in schools and districts around the country, bright young people leave school without graduating. Boredom, the absence of strong adult role models, overcrowded classrooms, and teaching that is geared towards simply passing a test are just a few of the factors that contribute to a student dropping out.
• Have you or one of your friends considered dropping out of school?
• What kind of advice would you offer a friend who is thinking about dropping out of school?”
• If you were able to participate in an organizing effort like that of Sistas and Brothas United, how do you think this experience might change how you view school or how you think about your future and your ability to be a leader in your community?
2. “You Get What You Expect”
All students respond to the cues they are given by the adults in their lives. They know when parents and teachers have high expectations and when they doubt the ability of a young person to be successful.
• Have you had teachers who, through their words and actions, led you to believe you were not going to be successful in school?
• Think about one teacher who believed in you and your potential. What did he or she do to demonstrate this commitment? What difference did this make for you?
• How could you help adults understand the critical role their attitudes and beliefs have on your ability to succeed in school?
3: Creating Schools That Value the Student Voice:
In the Bronx, parents and community members have supported the work of a youth-led organizing effort to open and then try to find a permanent home for a new high school.
• Everyone is always talking in the name of the youth. How can we create space for the student voice to be heard and respected?
• What kind of school do you envision? How can the student voice shape what the school looks like?
• What unique perspectives and abilities do young people bring to organizing for school reform?
• How can adults – parents, organizers, and teachers – provide young people with the support they need to play a leading role in an organizing effort, rather than simply following a strategy defined by adult the opportunities to do well go to college, and be successful?
What’s Next? Taking Action
Identify a number of specific, shared problems in your school / district. Select one or two to work on in this session. Break into small groups to discuss potential solutions to the identified problem, and bring back to larger group. Before concluding the meeting, outline concrete next steps you can take — individually, and/or as a group until the next time you meet. Following meetings should review progress and plan next steps in reaching goal on one issue. Problems identified in first step can be re-visited as progress is made.