This post is guest authored by Gabe, an ACLC Corpsmember and Assistant Crew Leader of the Trail Blazers.
We landed in Washington D.C. – our nation’s capitol – on a rainy Tuesday morning. A long walk through the airport, a stuffy ride on the Metro, and a drizzly-walk down many blocks to our hotel. Dry off, change of clothes, and a quick lunch in the hotel. We had our first meeting of the trip that afternoon with The Corps Network – the organization that had brought us from Mile High Youth Corps to D.C. for the Opportunity Nation Summit. We were representing one of several Corps from across the country that was brought out for the Summit. We had a chance to mix and mingle with Corpsmembers from Brooklyn to San Francisco and discovered that all of us are working to make a difference in our communities through the conservation projects at our Corps. We learned what to expect the next day at our Summit: lots of information, lots of people from all over, and free breakfast and lunch.
The summit was a bit of a blur. There was countless presentations and speakers. Young people from across the country, from all different walks of life, telling their stories. Most of them spoke about an opportunity afforded to them throughout their life that changed their focus or their direction. They all told passionate stories, nearly all of which resonated with the young people in the audience. Other speakers were not so young, politicians from Iowa, Florida, and Massachusetts. These politicians also spoke of opportunity, but rather than the opportunities in their own life they spoke of the importance of creating and maintaining opportunities in the lives of young Americans. After all of these presenters and speakers one thing stands out: the set of initiatives put forth by Opportunity Nation.
1. Engage employers as part of the solution – one of the main goals is for young people to be employed. So it only makes sense for employers to collaborate towards figuring out how young people can fit the need of their job openings.
2. Incentivize innovation through an Enterprising Pathways Program – this federal Enterprise Pathways Program would fund career and technical education programs through a competitive grant.
3. Reauthorize and reform federal policies to improve Career and Technical Education (CTE) – CTE programs should rely more on the collaboration between secondary schools, post-secondary schools, and the working industry.
4. Pair college planning support for low income students with asset development – Access to affordable college for high school students should be much more readily available.
5. Boost Mentoring – increase the amount of youth mentoring programs across all communities.
6. Drive community collaboration to reconnect youth – an increase in the efforts and approaches to re-engaging high school dropouts and other disconnected youth is imperative.
7. Increase pathways to secondary and post-secondary success for all youth – States and school districts should support multiple pathways to secondary and post-secondary success by encouraging flexible scheduling and recognizing competency based learning.
8. Invest in current programs that work – Federal policymakers should significantly scale investments over the next five years to expand programs that have a consistent and proven track record.
We all had a great time at the Summit in D.C. and we left with a wealth of knowledge to bring back to our Corps. This was a great opportunity to meet with other young people like ourselves who are out there making a difference in their own communities. Thanks to MHYC for giving us this opportunity to represent our organization and thanks to Nancy for taking us out to see all the amazing sites!