Adam Fletcher with the King County Youth Engagement Practitioners Cadre in 2011.

Service Learning Seattle

Since 2006, I have contracted with Seattle Public Schools Service Learning program. My activities have included project planning, program design and delivery, evaluation, training, technical assistance, speaking, and professional development services. I’ve provided large and small group facilitation; communication and public relations; project management; and other consulting services, too.

 

Partner Schools

Some of the schools I’ve partnered with in Seattle have included:

  • Cleveland High
  • Garfield High
  • Roosevelt High
  • Franklin High
  • Nova High
  • Ballard High
  • West Seattle High
  • Rainier Beach High
  • Aki Kurose Middle
  • Mercer Middle
  • Denny Middle

 

Following are descriptions of some related activities.

 


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Introduction to Youth Councils

Researching for a presentation in 2013, I identified fewer than 40 youth councils connected with city governments across Washington State. This state has over 280 municipal governments. There were also fewer than 10 counties that had youth councils, and only one state agency reported a youth council, in addition to the Washington Legislative Youth Advisory Council.

Here is the presentation I made:

Youth are everywhere! According to the United Nations, young people between the ages of 12 and 21 account for more than 25% of the world’s population today.

In the United States, the Census reported in 2011 there are over 73 million people under 18 in the United States. 10 to 19 year olds make up more than 14% of the US population.

At that same point, the Census reported that young people ages 10 to 19 make up 13% of Washington’s population.

There are more than 281 municipalities in Washington State, including incorporated towns and cities. Research conducted by the Washington State Legislative Youth Advisory Council has found that only 35 of those municipalities have Youth Councils.

Youth Councils have vast differences, and many different possibilities. Some of the differences depend on where they are located, who is on the Councils, and what the local municipality needs from them.

However, the missions of many Youth Councils aren’t generally informed by research-driven best practices, national trends or patterns, or other factually-based decisions. Instead, they are determined by well-intentioned adults who want to do the right thing, but are limited by their own imaginations, by their city or town leadership’s vision, or the way that everyday people see young people.

However, and luckily, we’re not limited to negative or challenging perceptions of youth. As one community organizer said, “Our youth are not failing the system; the system is failing our youth. Ironically, the very youth who are being treated the worst are the young people who are going to lead us out of this nightmare.” The way they’re going to do this? Youth Councils.

A youth council is a formal or informal body of young people that is driven by advocacy and decision-making. They address the absence of youth involvement in decision-making for any age of young people, with kids as young as 7 and young adults as old as 24 being involved in Youth Councils across Washington State.

There many different kinds of youth councils, including those sponsored by local governments, including towns, cities, and counties; state government agencies and legislatures; local nonprofit and community organizations; and national organizations.

Communities with Youth Councils in Washington

  • Auburn
  • Bellevue
  • Camas
  • Cheney
  • Colville
  • Des Moines
  • Everett
  • Federal Way
  • Grandview
  • Issaquah
  • Kirkland
  • Lacey
  • Lakewood
  • Liberty Lake
  • Marysville
  • Mercer Island
  • Mill Creek
  • Millwood
  • Mukilteo
  • Oak Harbor
  • Puyallup
  • Redmond
  • Renton
  • Sammamish
  • Seattle
  • Shoreline
  • University Place

The Washington State Legislative Youth Advisory Council had:

  • 22 students
  • Ages 14-18
  • All corners of Washington
  • All walks of life.
  • Two-year term.
  • Meet up to four times per year in Olympia.
  • Hold monthly conference calls to discuss projects and goals.
  • Hold an annual Action Day to meet with legislators and testify on important youth-related bills.
  • Advocate for youth-related bills. In 2013, lobbying efforts helped move three bills to be passed into law.
  • Partner with youth groups and organizations.

Other types of organizations have youth advisory councils. They include:

  • Community Development
  • Labor
  • Workforce Development
  • School Districts
  • Neighborhood Associations
  • Faith Communities
  • Ethnic and Cultural Groups
  • Performing Arts Orgs
  • And many others

Alfie Kohn once said, “Youth should not only be trained to live in a democracy when they grow up; they should have the chance to live in one today.” Youth Councils allow young people to experience democracy in realtime.

The context for youth councils comes from many places. I find poetry inspiring, and in particular, Langston Hughes’ poem Freedom’s Plow:

Thus the dream becomes not one man’s dream alone,
But a community dream.
Not my dream alone, but our dream.
Not my world alone,
But your world and my world,
Belonging to all the hands who build.

Would you build with young people? Youth councils provide one way to get that done.

Washington Gear UP logo

Washington GEAR UP

The GEAR UP program fosters college awareness and readiness for low-income middle and high school students by providing a variety of programs targeted to educators. The University of Washington state GEAR UP program serves 5,700 students in 36 schools and 29 school districts throughout Washington state.

Challenge

The state’s major GEAR UP program was faced with normalized student disengagement among their target participants, including low-income, students of color, and migrant/bilingual students. They needed to increase facilitator effectiveness, and decided that modeling and intensive professional development were the best avenues for action.

Solutions

The University of Washington State GEAR UP program contracted with me from 2005 to 2007 to facilitate several training activities for almost 300 middle and high school students. In 2007, I facilitated a week-long professional development retreat for local coordinators focused on Meaningful Student Involvement.

Outcomes

I facilitated a 36-hour intensive program designed to increase program efficacy and outcomes. Participants reported their work would be transformed, their approaches would refocus on student engagement, and that they had the resources they needed to take strategic steps.

Recommendation

“Adam works tirelessly to create environments and cultures where youth develop and wield the knowledge and power to positively impact not only their lives but also society. He is one of the most knowledgeable, innovative, and effective facilitators, writers, educators, and thinkers in the field. Adam brings theory and reality together in praxis that reveals how utopic visions can become a reality.” – Christin Chopra, former Manager, University of Washington GEAR UP


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This is a flyer for Adam Fletcher's "Self-Sustainability for Educators" workshop.
This is a flyer for Adam Fletcher’s “Self-Sustainability for Educators” workshop.

Olympia—Partners Needed for a Youth Event

Talking with a number of young people in Olympia in informal settings, I recently discovered there is a desire for a youth leadership training for them. However, without money to attend, these “nontraditionally engaged” youth don’t feel like they can do it. So I’m going to pull together a one-day youth action training here in Olympia focused on The Freechild Project Youth Action Kit.

Right now I’m calling for volunteers and partner orgs for this one day event at the end of June.
WHY
Provide nontraditional youth leaders the opportunity to build their skills and knowledge on how to change the world.
WHAT/WHEN 
In late June 2013, I am going to facilitate a one-day, nine-hour training for youth and adults focused on youth leadership in changing the world. This is a skill-building, knowledge-sharing event that will increase participants’ abilities to successfully take action for social change. The main target group is local youth of all stripes from the Thurston County area. 
This will be a hands-on, interactive, fun event that focuses on actual action to change the world. I do not talk down to youth, and I’m not a hype-man; instead, I facilitate practical, meaningful action by young people working with adults as partners. The goal of the training is to promote youth engagement in practical, powerful, and positive social change.
WHO
  • Up to 100 participants will be accepted to come individually or in groups.
  • There is no cost to participate, and there are NO requirements beyond pre-registration. 
  • Certificates can be given that designate the number of hours attended and topics covered.
  • Youth ages 12 to 19 will be invited directly.
  • Local youth-serving programs and organizations will be invited.
  • Adult allies of all kinds, including teachers, parents, youth workers, counselors, business people, elected officials, government workers, and others will be invited to attend.
WHERE 
TBD. Suggestions are welcome.
YOUR ROLE 
Freechild needs co-sponsors for this event. I am facilitating it for free and I’m 
not collecting any fees. I invite YOU and your organization to provide any of the following:
  • Participants
  • Logistical support
  • Location 
  • Event planning
  • Food
  • Promotion
  • Flip chart paper
  • Markers
  • Photocopies & printing
  • Give-aways
  • ?????
TOPICS
The topics for this training are still being determined, but will definitely cover how to organize Youth Action as I’ve written in The Freechild Project Youth Action Kit. They may also cover topics from The Freechild Project Youth Engagement Workshop Guide, which is focused on youth taking action to change the world.
QUESTIONS
  • What do I get for partnering? If you choose to partner with me for this event, I will include your logo on materials and acknowledge your org or business during the event.
  • How often will this happen? Its a one-time training.
  • How much does it cost? Its free.
  • Is there a program supporting it? This event is not program-centered.
  • What is it going to cover? This is a general skill-building and knowledge-sharing training event, and not a train-the-trainer event.
  • What are the outcomes? It may inspire participants to go out and take action in the community, and they’ll received materials to support that. It may inspire participants to change their own lives. It might just be fun for a day.
  • Are there other programs doing this? WASC, based in Oly, offers a statewide student leadership training statewide program doesn’t reach the generally disengaged youth population of the area. Voices of Youth is program-driven youth voice with a specific agenda focused on school health.
  • Why do you think you can do this? I have trained thousands of youth in hundreds of topics for more than a decade, and have developed youth leadership development programs in 50 communities nationwide. Learn more about me at my website.
  • Is there any real need for this beyond a few youths’ opinions? I love Oly’s youth programs, and have supported each of them by donating my time and money and volunteering for more. Currently, I know of no programs offered by CYS, GRuB, Together, Stonewall Youth, or the even among the city’s state agenciesthat  provide leadership development for their participants focused on general social change. Instead, they’re all topic-specific, if at all. So yes, there’s a real need, and generally speaking, local nonprofits don’t have the resources or staff to facilitate this kind of training. I’ve also done this 6 times before in Oly.
  • Why do you REALLY want to do this? Basically, I do all this work nationally and want to contribute back to the city I live in by volunteering my time, knowledge, and ability.
  • How can I get involved? Give me a call at (360) 489-9680 or email adam@freechild.org.
  • I’m not from Oly—can I still come? YES! Get in touch. 
  • How can I get this in my city? Contact me.
  • How can I get more info? Sign up for the CommonAction newsletter, the Freechild facebook page, or send me an email.
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

Characteristics of Successful Youth Engagement

Ideally, youth engagement happens throughout communities and across society. Youth programs and youth councils are good; but engaging youth at home and throughout regular community places is great. However, the space is not as important as the characteristics of the community.

Working with more than 40 youth engagement practitioners throughout King County for our Youth Engagement Practitioners Cadre over the last two years, I have collected a lot of best practices and tips. Here are some some of the characteristics of successful youth engagement they identified. 
Characteristics of Successful Youth Engagement

Programs are Focused. 

Instead of meandering through purposeless activities and focus-less personal activities, every activity is designed to be a concise, deliberative engagement of multiple intelligences, broad perspectives, and varying experiences. Engaging young people remains the central action throughout the program, and improving the community is the focus of every activity.

Environments are Supportive.

Youth and adults alike are committed to working together without fear of retribution or alienation. All youth are partners with each other and adults in the program, and work together for the common cause of improving communities through youth engagement.
Activities are Engaging.
The experiences, knowledge, ideas, and opinions of youth are validated and substantiated with meaningful learning experiences that infuse community interest with a new capacity to visualize, analyze, create, and engage youth as partners.

Thinking is Critical.

As co-learners within a community of learners, youth provide vital insight in the community improvement process for their peers and adult allies. These democratic interactions are actively encouraged and supported by all members.
Processes are Transparent.
There should be no mysteries about what the purpose of the youth engagement program is, or what the outcomes of the activities will be. The program offers numerous ways to make goals, outcomes, and activities fully understandable to youth.
Decisions are Decentralized.
Youth engagement activities emphasize the common experience of all participants—youth and adults—as co-learners, empowering youth to engage fully throughout the learning process. Decisions affecting every member are made by members of the program—youth and adults—and everyone is held equally accountable and celebrated equally.

The Cadre members taught me that these characteristics combine to create powerful climates for youth engagement. Learn more about the King County Youth Engagement Practitioners Cadre here, and contact me for more information.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!
This the logo for The Youth Alliance of Southwest Washington.

Educational Service District 113

The Educational Service District 113 Student Support Services Team (ESD 113) facilitates the growth and development of school- and community-based academic, health, extracurricular, and social supports for K-12 students in southwest Washington.

Challenge

A national movement towards rallying similar organizations supporting similar young people in schools and during out-of-school time led ESD 113 to convene a similar coalition. Without a concise action plan or engaging facilitator, the ESD was concerned their coalition may not succeed. Searching for a premier leader with similar experience, the ESD called on Adam to inform and guide this effort.

Solutions

Starting in spring 2012, Adam provided leadership to the Pacific Mountain Regional Youth Alliance through a contract with Educational Service District 113 in Tumwater, Washington. Adam consulted a planning team including representatives from five organizations focused on developing a collective impact strategy to affect change in southwest Washington. He also facilitated Alliance gatherings for up to 125 participants, as well as planning team meetings.

The Alliance, including Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Thurston, and the northern part of Pacific Counties, is planning, convening, and supporting youth agencies, individuals, and other partnering organizations as they engage, collaborate and activate the advancement of culturally relevant family and community roles for student success from early childhood through college. Focused on establishing a collective impact model, the Alliance convenes meetings, shares resources, and holds other events on the regional and county levels.

Outcomes

Adam helped the Alliance develop short- and long-term strategic plans, provided event facilitation for up to 125 people as well as small leadership team meetings with several organizational representatives, and consulted the ESD on future activities.

Results included a sustainable long-term action plan for the Alliance; new countywide coalitions affecting up to 250,000 youth throughout the region; and increased determination and motivation among participants into the future.

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Lets Move Cheney logo

City of Cheney

In 2011, the City of Cheney Parks and Recreation Department wanted to take their community-wide coalition building activities to the next level. Weighing national interest in working in this small college city, they selected Adam Fletcher through a competitive bidding process to develop the Let’s Move, Cheney Five-Year Strategic Plan.

 

Challenge

Faced with an epidemic of childhood obesity in their city, Cheney leaders gathered together to address the issue through a community-wide initiative focused on transforming systems, cultures, and attitudes towards health and wellness in the city. However, after a year of working together, diverse perspectives revealed the need for an outside facilitator who could establish middle ground and build consensus on moving forward.

 

Solutions

Focusing on creating a comprehensive long-range plan, Adam’s contract included creating a performance measurement tool, a community engagement plan, an action plan, a fundraising plan, an annual evaluation plan, and a sustainability plan as part of the effort. He conducted almost 100 key informant interviews; facilitated group feedback sessions; and devised the final copy for the plan. Additionally, Adam also facilitated a community-wide meeting with more than 70 participants to deliver the plan.

 

Project Resources Created by Adam

 


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Evolving Roles for Young People in Democracy

I originally wrote this for the spectacular Paul Roc’s local rag, The Journal of Natural Learning.

“Education should not be the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a flame.” – William Butler Yates

In the early 1800s it was common for non-enslaved Blacks in the United States to take the last name “Freeman” as a testimony to their freedom. Since that time young people have become bound by the ongoing structuring of society, through school, afterschool programs, church activities, and family life. These shared legacies led a group of Olympia-based youth activists and allies to create a new youth empowerment resource organization called The Freechild Project in April 2001. Today, Freechild is an internationally-renowned advocacy organization.

Freechild’s mission is to advocate, inform, and celebrate social change led by and with young people around the world. The organization serves as a not-for-profit learning space, think tank, resource center, and advocacy group that facilitates networking, training, resource-sharing, and technical assistance for young people and youth-serving organizations around the world.

By establishing a network of local and national organizations that includes Gateways for Incarcerated Youth at Evergreen, Fremont Public Association in Seattle, National Youth Rights Association in Washington, DC, and the United Nations Development Programme in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Freechild has reached tens of thousands of young people and their adult allies around the world. We have created dozens of unique publications, resource databases, and popular education workshops that promote children, youth, and adults working as equal partners in democratic social change.

Freechild believes that as a collective body within a global community, children and youth around the world are subject to segregation, alienation, and injustice without parallel. Further, as members of distinct ethnic, racial, and socio-economic groups, many young people suffer unequalled oppression as the targets of genocide, hunger, and war. It is no wonder that in these times when the health of democracy is sacrificed for commercial gain and familial vendetta, many people find it hard to have hope. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of the “World House,” it is almost certain that he didn’t intend for children and youth to inherit a decrepit house, slipped from its foundation, stripped of its siding, plastered with billboards, and crumbling apart inside.

What is that slipped foundation upon which the World House is built? Is it a higher authority charged with morality and righteousness, or a man-made composite of economy and education, government and military? The Freechild Project believes that it is Community, that common connection of diverse people for a collective purpose. The citizens of modern communities tend to neglect or deny that collective purpose; worse still, many people deny that young people have any purpose at all.

Popular culture seems to exacerbate this situation repeatedly by constantly railing against youth. While corporate marketing to children and youth infiltrates every facet of our culture, movies simultaneously glamorize and degrade the collective image of young people today. Two recent books summarize young people today as “The Scapegoat Generation,” and as “The Abandoned Generation,” while a popular website portrays them as a shapeless, placeless, and an unknowable “Fluid Generation.”

Other culprits to perpetuating negative stereotypes about youth include politicians and government officials who continually attempt to pin vandalism, loitering, and other crime on young people. It is ironic that this demonization actually benefits, and is sometimes perpetuated by, the very nonprofit agencies that purport to provide prevention and intervention programs for young people. Finally, in this period of federally-mandated and locally-supported standardized testing, it is of little surprise that children and youth themselves are often blamed for the failures of the education system. This, despite the reality that most students never have the actual opportunity to make significant decisions or advocate for what is important to themselves in schools.

Demonstrating the wisdom of youth, one young leader recently said, “I’ve never met an apathetic young person, [but] I’ve met a lot of hopeless and discouraged young people, who think that they are not big enough to change things.” This assessment summarizes the raison d’etre of dozens of youth-driven groups in Washington today. Benefiting communities across the state, young people and their adult allies are working together to engage children and youth as social justice activists, action researchers, community planners, popular educators, democratic decision-makers, and as empowered advocates as never before. They are calling for the knowledge, experience, ideas and opinions of young people to get heard now, for their own benefit and for the benefit of democracy.

The issues that young people are addressing across today are as diverse as the children and youth who are engaged. Coming from every walk in society, young people are addressing issues of economic injustice, racism, education reform, sustainable agriculture, disproportionate incarceration, affordable housing, gay youth rights, lowering the voting age, homelessness, among hundreds of topics. Their action is sophisticated, appropriate, and increasingly sustainable; by creating media, joining community boards, distributing foundation funding, creating global technology networks, activating the hip hop community, and politicizing traditional youth programs, young social change agents are radically transforming two pillars of society’s treatment of children and youth: namely, adults’ expectations and the role of young people in democracy.

It is said two different people will rarely interpret a master’s art the same way. Social change led by and with young people usually has the same effect. Some adults scoff at children and youth who lead action, declaring their actions idealistic and simplistic, while many others maintain the standard of ignoring their contributions totally. Some see young social change agents as anarchists and rebels, while others see them as peons and kiss-ups. Fortunately for our society as a whole, still other adults proclaim that engaging young people is a matter of effectiveness, civil rights, youth development, and ultimately, ensuring democracy. The following examples from Washington can provide a proving ground for readers to decide for themselves what this action really is.

The Olympia Youth/Teen New Media Fest seeks to foster the vitality of the Olympia community by providing a venue for vivacious and creative youth. This festival is a weekend long celebration of youth-teen culture; showcasing films, videos, comic books and zines, websites, spoken word and bands made and performed by folks 21 and younger. Young people express their opinions, ideas, knowledge and experience by becoming the creators of media that reflects their true beliefs.

Anak Bayan is a collective founded in 2000 by Filipino and Filipino American youth and students who are concerned about the global oppression of their people. According to their website they study and educate others about the culture and heritage of the Filipino people. They also study, expose, and oppose US imperialist intervention in the Philippines. Through this action, the young people in Anak Bayan are engaged as teachers and advocates, and are driving social change that can enrich our state’s cultural heritage and promote social justice for all people.

A nonprofit organization in Kent, Washington is engaging young people as advocates for democracy through poetry/nonviolence workshops. The Institute for Community Leadership (ICL) works to empower children and youth to create a vision of a more just nation and world. Their website, www.icleadership.org, features stories of programs that develop and sustain strength, hope, leadership, and relationships for young people and adults in schools, community organizations, and governmental programs.

A variety of communities across the state have opportunities for young people to engage in government decision-making activities. Cities including Lacey, Colville, Kirkland, Vancouver, and Spokane have youth councils that engage diverse young people in making important and meaningful decisions affecting youth throughout their communities. Several American Indian tribes in Washington also have opportunities for youth to participate in decision-making activities, including Port Gamble S’Klallam tribe, Yakama Nation, and Muckleshoot tribe.

The Seattle Young Peoples Project (SYPP) is perhaps the most vibrant organization in Washington state providing opportunities for young people to lead social change. Their fifteen-year-old organization has provided resources and support to youth-led initiatives throughout the city that have engaged thousands of young people, including conferences, workshops, concerts, and more. Their activities reflect the diversity of Seattle’s youth: whether focusing on queer youth rights, African immigrant youth solidarity, or young womens’ empowerment, SYPP continues to be a powerful example of the effectiveness and ability of youth-led social action across Washington.

The benefits to democracy in Washington, across the United States, and around the world are innumerable. Social change led by and with young people provides individual children and youth with important opportunities to experience and impact democracy first-hand; allows adults the chance to relax and learn from young people by working with them, instead of for them; and it gives our communities hope by developing lifelong expectations and opportunities for everyone. One of those expectations is that there are communities worth living in for everyone, including youth. One of those opportunities is that democracy needs to be constantly reinvigorated through social change.

In his last book before he was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote,

“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.”

Activists, educators, youth workers, young people, and all people across Washington must stay awake and vigilant to the challenges facing society today. The need to strengthen democracy has never been greater, and the resources have never been so limited. Communities can no longer afford to ignore the power of children and youth, either morally or fiscally. As Henry Giroux writes, “The stakes have never been so high and the future so dark.” Young people provide light in that darkness – let’s encourage their flames to grow.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!