Youth4Ed

Empowering students to fight for education equity in their communities through a year-long service-learning project.

Photo of CARMEN LOPEZ VILLAMIL
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Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

March 7th, 2003

Help us stay in touch!

(929) 320 8930 146 16th Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11215

Date You Started Your Project Started

7/24/2019

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

In New York City, half of public schools have 12 or less white students, while others are nearly all-white; this is institutional racial inequity. Our solution is education equity: the belief that every student deserves a safe, integrated, and quality education. I write of New York City because it is my home, but inequity pervades the country at large, impacting every student, and making our responsibility to change it all the more necessary.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Youth4Ed will recruit Lead Activists from high schools across the nation to pioneer service-learning projects that support educational equity. We will provide training and resources in the form of webinars, tool-kits, and mentorship. In turn, we expect that they create a club to investigate, plan and execute a service-learning project over the course of one year, after which they will share their experiences with other leaders in a digital forum. One example of a service-learning project is my own: I am working with other NYC public school students to write and lobby policy to integrate our schools, from abolishing the specialized high school admissions test, to ensure that every eighth-grader has access to accurate and helpful information in selecting high schools. In fighting for education equity, we hope to form a fair education system for all Americans. By empowering young people to fight for their communities, rather than imposing change, we are encouraging students to learn about their realities and enabling them to spur change from within. Service-learning is the best path towards education equity because it empowers young people to transform their communities deliberately.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

One flight of steps above my elementary school was a near entirely black and Hispanic high school. My school received multitudes of resources from the Department of Education; theirs got close to none. My school had only the most exceptional teachers; theirs were all teetering towards retirement. Worst of all, we were afraid of them and of becoming them. Government policy segregates our schools, and the direct legacy is unwitting racial prejudice. We were not scared of them because they were black and Hispanic, but because federal policy created racialized neighborhoods and turned them into hubs of violence and poverty. In my predominantly white high school, the token brown and black kids sit apart from the rest. The interwoven impact of legislation and social norms on our educational experiences deprive every student of understanding, questioning, and changing the system.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

In response to educational inequity, I volunteer as a soccer coach, for the Urban Debate League, and as a mentor at a lab. These programs enable minorities to thrive despite inequity. Youth4Ed is an attempt to make these programs obsolete because equitable, quality education should not be ensured by NGOs or philanthropists, but by the state and its people. Whether this is a legislative campaign or integration talk, we must empower students to make systemic changes to their educational systems.

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

Each Lead Activist will create a club at their school with an adult mentor. We will provide promotional materials, webinar training sessions, and our “Youth4Ed Take Action Tool-Kit.” In the first quarter, Lead Activists will discuss inequity and its manifestations in their community. The second quarter will be planning a service project to address a root cause of inequity. In the third quarter, they will implement their plan. The final quarter is a reflection period to evaluate their impact, learning, and sustainability. After each quarter, they will submit a reflection, and we will provide feedback and resources. They will produce a culminating report detailing their service, to be shared on a digital forum with every Lead Activist. After their year-long term, they retain Youth4Ed resources, their access to webinars, and communication with the leadership team, along with their title.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Youth4Ed uniquely addresses the root causes of educational inequity while enabling community-specific solutions. Sweeping national policy initiatives are often subverted by local governments and communities. So by empowering youth to change their communities, we ensure that change is specific to them and genuinely implemented. While programs that work within our inequitable framework convey that conformity to elite, white norms is necessary to succeed. We argue that two parallel societies were created at the expense of fair education and racial equality and that they must be merged.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

We have not launched Youth4Ed, but our trial projects have been remarkably impactful. In New York City, I have been working to demand integration legislation of the city’s Department of Education, which has begun to abolish selective admissions processes. The ensuing press has reached millions, and as our work continues, we stand to transform the lives of the 1.1 million students in the NYC school system. My fellow Youth4Ed leader, Zahra Ali, has begun to host discussions about race in her community. In Minnesota, the sizable Somali population remains mostly segregated from their fellow white Minnesotans, allowing prejudices to fester. Zahra works to host conversations between students of all races to integrate. When implemented, we will determine the effectiveness of our program through required quarterly reflections by each Lead Activist, and by reviewing their final project report.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

In the coming months, we will finalize the “Youth4Ed Take Action Tool-Kit” and create a Youth4Ed website to promote and house the resources necessary to begin a Youth4Ed club. In November, we will start recruiting Lead Activists from across the nation for our first cohort of clubs. We need assistance in advertising the position and program to a large, passionate base of students. After the first term ends in July, we would like to increase our number of Lead Activists, to establish Youth4Ed as a truly national program. Eventually, we want to host an annual summit to discuss education equity, the individual projects of Lead Activists, and mobilize a national movement of empowered communities, led by students for systemic educational change.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Marketing Strategy

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • Hispanic, Latino/a, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian) (7)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Religious minority (non-Christian)

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others
  • Email

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?

Amy Meuers, CEO of NYLC

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Attachments (1)

Youth4Ed Take-Action Toolkit-2.pdf

This is a guide for Lead Activists during their year-long term. This is a rough draft that is missing necessary components. We are nearly finished writing the remaining pieces and consolidating resources in the toolkit, have begun editing, and it will be completed by mid-October.

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Photo of Julie Rogers Bascom
Team

Carmen - thank you for leading an effort that affects us all. Often when we spearhead action for change it can be because it affects ourselves. You're leading an effort that affects us ALL and you're considering the common good.

I'm wondering if you can identify what efforts are already having an impact.

What are some of the tougher barriers you think you'll run into?

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