Students Taking Charge

As a consultant to the national nonprofit Action For Healthy Kids from 2008 to 2010, Adam Fletcher coordinated a statewide youth-led action program in Washington state focused on youth improving nutrition and physical activities in K-12 schools.

Providing training, technical assistance and program support for 12 high school teams based around the state, Adam’s leadership in this two-year project included a variety of actitivies. They included social media management with more than 1,000 messages in 22 months; two dozen student-created school advertising campaigns; administering $20,000 in grant funds, and other efforts focused on building the ability of local schools to engage students in healthy lifestyles. The national organization also contracted Adam to write a proposal for a national youth advisory board, and to provide speeches at state and national events. Students Taking Charge culminated with student-led events in several communities. For his leadership in this program, Adam was awarded the “Healthy School Champion” award from National Action for Healthy Kids by former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher.

Recommendation

“Adam has many skills that offer him a diversity in many areas of education, health/wellness education, school health systems, and youth development. He is also skilled with providing professional development to school and afterschool staff. His style is more interactive; and his style is as a facilitator that guides the learning process instead of telling you what you should know. The content of his trainings have been applicable with strategies that allow the learner to make adjustments for their own instructional or leadership style.” – Racie McKee, Action for Healthy Kids Project Director at Omak School District

 


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Why We Can’t Wait

In 2000 I was working as the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction‘s Youth Ambassador position where I was responsible for coordinating the statewide essay contest for K-12 students focused on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I also met Sasha Rabkin, who has worked for the Institute for Community Leadership for a long time. Between the contest and Sasha’s influence I became acutely aware of the power Dr. King had over the lifeblood of this nation, as well as people around the world. Beyond the mythologizing of King’s work, there is a deep power inside of his words and actions, and they resonated deeply in me.

The other thing that happened that year is that after spending a few years previous reading John Holt, Grace Llewellyn and Billy Upski, among others, I decided to become involved in the youth rights movement. That year I submitted a poem to be included on the National Youth Rights Association‘s website, and I named it after Dr. King’s 1963 book called Why We Can’t Wait.

Following is that poem, with a few revisions. There are strands about adultism, systemic oppression and alienation throughout. Another NYRA supporter felt moved enough to make a song from it a few years later. Let me know what you think of either one!

Why We Can’t Wait

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor;
it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
I look at the people around me
and see the prisons and traps
we are all stuck.
From an early age we are taught and trained:
sit still, hold on, walk (don’t run),
and be quiet.
Whatever you do, be quiet.

So we do. We go to polite schools or content jobs.
We type and read and feel nice.
Our hair is nice and our hearts are nice.
We live nice lives.

But what if…
what if we were shown the whole picture
from the first day?
What if they said
“Hey, when you’re poor, you’re screwed.
If you’re black, you’re facing an uphill road.
If you’re female, you’re up a creek.
Oh, yeah, and you’ll be young too!
Let’s not even go there!”

What if we could awaken all people to the chains that tie them down?
What if everyone saw that
we are responsible for holding ourselves down?
What if the message of systematic and deliberate oppression
was exposed and the entire society
– everyone everywhere-
saw that young people are
looked down upon,
frowned upon,
sat upon
and shat upon?

Then they become adults.
The world turns.
They start pooping on youth…
and the cycle continues.

We’ve gotta speak up, act up, and quit
putting up, giving up and settling down.

We cannot wait any longer.

Its time to get up, stand up, scream out loud and dream out loud.
We’ve gotta break outta the chains that hold us down.
We’ve gotta stand up for what is ours:
Freedom.
To earn, to learn, to speak, to serve.

We’ve gotta tie people together
instead of tearing them apart.
We’re taught that we’re not the same because we are
young and old
black and white
educated and ignorant
rich and poor.

But we’re the same.
And that’s why young people have got t be free.

No one is free until everyone is free. Free Youth Now.

Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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Order FACING ADULTISM by Freechild founder Adam Fletcher!

Essential Reading for Volunteers


Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the popularity and misconceptions many people and organizations have about volunteerism. Like the disease of alcoholism or the compulsion of adultism, it seems like there is a segment of American society that simply wants to volunteer – without knowing exactly why or how. I’m simply not sure about dispelling the myths within that assumption, but I do a lot of people have written and talked a lot about it. Here are some links if you want to learn more:

To Hell With Good IntentionsA 1968 speech by Ivan Illich focusing on the injustice perpetuated by American volunteers working in Mexico, and when contextualized in the light of modern “service” work, offers a startling analysis of the volunteer movement in America.

Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? – In 1967 Dr. Martin Luther King laid out a clear analysis of the painful divide facing activists and community organizers. The problem is that we’ve fulfilled his worst fears. 1960s Connections he drew between Black Power, affirmative action and American segregation provide a clear glimpse into modern American apartheid; his prescriptions for community building, nonviolence and unity offer a roadmap for a different America.
Mentoring the Mentor – This book is a written conversation between Paulo Freire and a number of promoters, practitioners and detractors who have beef with his analysis. “The fundamental task of the mentor is a liberatory task. It is not to encourage the mentor’s goals and aspirations and dreams to be reproduced in the mentees, the students, but to give rise to the possibility that the students become the owners of their own history. This is how I understand the need that teachers have to transcend their merely instructive task and to assume the ethical posture of a mentor who truly believes in the total autonomy, freedom, and development of those he or she mentors.” (from Chapter Sixteen: “A Response” by Paulo Freire).

In the Service of What? The Politics of Service LearningIn 1994 a pair of university faculty wrote an academic analysis of service learning. They provided a basis for a lot of the modern criticism underway today, and allowed the service learning movement to breathe enough to allow critical thinking within its ranks. While that movement seems to have exhaled lately, Kahn and Westhiemer’s analysis is just as applicable today, and provides a great construct to learn from.

Purpose, Empowerment and the Experience of Volunteerism in the Community – In 2004 I adapted Hart’s Ladder of Youth Participation with a wider lens that attempted to explore volunteerism. Its an interesting glimpse into a few corners of my experiences that I need to look at some more.
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!