Code Red—Call in the Youth


This is not the first knock on the door of United States education but it is certainly the loudest. Statistics tell us we’re behind, youth voices scream we’re not listening, and society claims we’re not trying—humanity is declaring war, a war on education. Code red, because America we have a problem. In our mist we have embarked upon a crisis that will leave its haunting impression on us for years to come if we do not respond immediately. Every 26 seconds a student drops out of high school subsequently resulting in a system failing about 3,323 students per day. We are depleting our society of innovation and creativity by ignoring the need for effective education for all students, not just the lucky ones. It is time, to respond to this crisis and rally together the troops to build a Grad Nation.

At the summoning call of General Collin Powell more than 800 of our nation’s finest and most passionate soldiers stand at attention ready to fight the bloody battle of education reform. On the battle grounds of the Grad Nation Summit the march towards the 2020 goal to reach 90% high school graduation rates began. Boots are on the ground. The needs of the nation were chanted loud and clear. Youth need resources, youth need to be approached by education in a way that fits them, and youth need voices.

With youth at the focal point of the summit, statistics were important but student narratives were inspirational, adult speakers were enjoyable but youth participation was imperative For so long we have looked to adults on answers on how to help youth but this has failed us. Luckily, all hope is not lost, we have had an epiphany—youth are the answer to helping youth. A young person’s perspective, voice and ideas are directly connected to their experiences within their community, which makes them experts on their school hallways, peers, and defective education. We’ve been looking so hard for the answer, that we’ve by passed the solution directly in front of us. It only makes sense that if the methods don’t fit the people, we ask the people to fix the methods. I along with two fellow Cleveland High School students attended the Grad Nation Summit in Washington DC to lend our voices and passions to be part of the solution.

In the current local environment Seattle Public Schools is in a perpetual crisis often called the “silent epidemic”. Through compassion, leadership and purpose it is the goal of the Youth Ambassadors program is to call upon students for student change. As an alumnus from Cleveland High School and still an active participant in the efforts to decrease truancy, through the Youth Ambassador program it has been the students who have had the biggest impact on the students. We often validate negative peer pressure but ignore the power of positive peer pressure. Youth have the power to change the morale of their community. The Grad Nation Summit made it clear that using youth as the intervention specialist, educators, and community changers is effective so we must continue to do this work.

“Tapping into youth” is a cliché statement, it talked about but never really done, but after the first battle of this war for a Grad Nation, General Collin Powell and the nation’s leaders have unleashed a new weapon to mass destruct high school dropouts rates—youth.