Reflecting on 2013

Adam Fletcher in Seattle

This last year has been a spectacular journey in my professional life. Throughout the year, I’ve discovered new heights of learning and opportunities, while remembering the roots I’ve grown from more deeply.

I spent a lot of 2013 in a writing cycle, alternately working on manuscripts for 7 publications, 3 of which are now in print. That’s been an exciting path, working diligently on finishing my biggest writing yet, Ending Discrimination Against Young People. I’m really proud of that work. Within the next week, I’ll also be launching a new publication, An Introduction to Holistic Youth Development. I’m pretty excited about that, too.

Starting in September, I began coordinating the Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council youth services, including $1,000,000 in grants and a youth council. I’d been working with their Youth Alliance through 2012 and 2013, and now I’m co-coordinating that with the awesome Todd Johnson from ESD 113. That professional collaboration, along with many others, is greatly increasing my depth of knowledge of youth as economic agents, including youth entrepreneurship, youth workforce education, and many more areas. Its exciting.

Throughout the late fall, I’ve had excited opportunities to reconnect with my longtime colleagues Heather Manchester and Sadie Schnitzler. We’d all worked together, along with Mishaela Duran and a few others, in the highly-selective Youth Ambassadors program operated by the Points of Light Foundation back in 2000-01. Its been exciting reconnecting with both of them, Heather after living in Northern Ireland for 6 years, and Sadie after living in Tibet for a decade. They’re both awesome people, and good for my brain.

My partnerships this last year were interesting, especially working deeply with Lois Brewer at Seattle Public Schools and Kyla Lackie, formerly of SOAR. I really miss Kyla now that she’s moved on to work with Highline Public Schools, but I know she’s doing good work there, and I’m definitely happy for her. Lois and I continue to work together to promote service learning and youth engagement at Cleveland High School and throughout the district. Collaborating with me extensively on that work has been the awesome Teddy Wright. Teddy and I continue finding new ways to partner, adding to more than 5 years of our collaboration. I’m also still drawn to my friend Mike Beebe’s work, who partnered with me in southeast Washington this year as we launched a SoundOut Student Voice Program there.

I continue to admire and talk with many of North America’s leaders in this work, as well as stay connected to the international field. Its been my privilege to contribute to Roger Holdsworth’s Connect magazine in Australia throughout the year, and to find a new outlet in Hazel Owen’s Ethos Consultancy blog out of New Zealand.

The year has taught me patience, and has encouraged me to gather my forces for the near future. The efforts out there to distract young people from their true engagements throughout life are mighty, and only getting stronger. I want to work to re-engage them, and all of society, in what matters. 2014 will be an exciting, exhilarating path towards that mission.

I’m taking a blogging break for the rest of the year, and will launch my writing fresh again in the New Year. I am coming back with a new style focused on quick, easy news and views. STAY ENGAGED, and have great holidays!

Newly Engaged Communities

As a consultant working across the nation to promote engagement, when I’m introduced to a community for the first time, I’m often told the story of so-called good ole days. Hanging on some sociologist’s assessment of the 1950s, the movies Gangs of New York or American Graffiti, or the memory of an old timer, these idyllic images conjure an America that might have been, and rues the country that is.

It’s not one side of the political spectrum that does this kind of daydreaming either, nor is it one socio-economic group, race, culture, age group, or religion. Instead, it’s like a national obsession to forget the reality of the moment and lament the status of the past.

What I’ve found as well is that none of this is true. The bellyaching, moaning and groaning about kids today, politics today, and the world today just isn’t real. Instead, it’s the product of over-active memory banks, under-analyzed social analysis, and over-ambitious historians who’d paint the world over in whatever shade of history they specialize in.

The simple truth is that our communities today are on a rapid and positive upswing. Young people are more engaged than ever in the health and well-being of the world they live in, and adults are paying attention like never before. There are robust debates happening every day over the very nature of democracy, and the propulsion of society towards social justice and equality is crescendoing as never before.

Before you call me a Pollyanna, I want you to consider this: I grew up poor in a low income African American neighborhood in the Midwest. I’ve seen that neighborhood continually experience blighting at the hands of indifferent, opportunistic white city leaders who don’t value it for what it’s worth. However, I’ve also seen its resilient nature and emergent desire to be different. I benefitted from the love and generosity of strangers in that neighborhood, and I’ve become who I was raised to be in that neighborhood.

I would suggest that’s the story of America today. If you look out and see a nation in disrepair and without regard for its own humanity, then that’s what you raised it to be, and what your foreparents thought it was. But if you look out and see the positive, powerful potential of people who struggle and survive and thrive and shine every single day, then that’s what it is.

Everyday, more than ever before, we’re witnessing the emergence of newly engaged communities. Rising out of the ashes like the mythical Phoenix, these communities represent the hopeful future of this country and the world. They are the birthing places of engaged citizenry, and like those cosmic explosions happening millions of light years away, these communities are launching the stars of the future right now! And they aren’t the upperclass suburban sprawl from the American dream of 60 years ago.

Instead, they’re the blocks in the hood where food activists have planted gardens and raised urban bounties. They’re the inner city schools where students have organized with teachers to improve the schools of today for the students of tomorrow. They’re the parks with volunteer trash patrols, libraries with banned book reading sessions, and nonprofits with spunky staff who promote the heck out of their minimum wage mission to save the world.

These newly engaged communities are our communities. They’re made of people, just like you and me. And they’re here now. These are our newly engaged communities, and this is our newly engaged life. So let’s live engaged, starting now.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!