Idea Leader: Abdias Sanchez
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Partner Organization: El Puente
Project Summary: The Bushwick neighborhood came together for multiple interactions due to the leadership of Idea Leader Abdias Sanchez, 17 and her partner organization El Puente Leadership Center. The group organized a forum reflective of the 5 Promises attend by many including a member of Congress and participated in two Dropout Prevention Rallies on Wall Street and City Hall.
Ten Youth Leaders Explore Reasons Why Students Drop Out of High School
The youth from Bushwick came out to speak up! Ten youth leaders from Bushwick organized and prepared events, forums, workshops, rallies, surveys and questionnaires to explore the reasons why students drop out of High School and to inform hundreds of students that dropping out is not an option!
SUEÑA (Students United for Education and Neighborhood Action) which is Spanish for Dream was formed by a group of teens at El Puente Bushwick Leadership Center. For many of us education has become a dream because while we all deeply care about the progress of our community and the lives of our peers, we understand that there are many obstacles in obtaining a quality education.
As SUEÑA leaders, we have motivated and inspired hundreds of students in Bushwick. We engaged in 12 different projects which goal was to bring awareness about NYS drop- out crisis and to encourage our peers to take action for their progress. We made sure that all of our events promoted the Five Promises of the America’s Promise Alliance. All of our events were supported with guess speakers, performances and conversations about why students drop out and conversations about the support systems we need to develop for ourselves.
One of our most memorable projects was our participation at the NYC DYCD Annual Teen Action Youth Forum where we got the opportunity to introduce SUEÑA to ~600 youth. At the forum we distributed informational pamphlets, had students pledge for their education and conducted a workshop for ~50 kids from other organizations. At this event with the help of our friends from El Puente NO Control who performed an Anti-Gang-Violence piece, we promoted the principle of Safe Places. We also display a “Green Cart” representing a Healthy Start. In this event, one of our youth leaders Mario Reyes also received an award from NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott; an unforgettable moment for us all.
On Wednesday, May 11 it was us, 10 youth leaders from this community with the support of El Puente Bushwick Leadership Center who organized a forum that addressed the drop out crisis that affects thousands of students in the United States but especially our peers in Bushwick. Our day went from inspiring to powerful. It all began with presentations by students and educators who spoke about the importance of getting a high school diploma. We created a safe space where ~100 young people were able to voice their challenges, their stories, concerns, needs but also the things that keep them motivated and committed to their own success in school and beyond.
All of the students that participated in this event were Latinos and African American, the two groups most affected by the dropout crisis. Ninety-nine percent of these students recognized that they themselves know people that have drop out of school. Youth from Bushwick struggle to complete high school, enter and complete college and secure an employment. We experience severe transition problems at all levels: out of 100 Latino elementary students in NYC, only 52 will go on to graduate from high school and only 10 will earn a Bachelors degree (Gayatan, 2009). This really makes us feel sad! But it also inspires us to take action!
The goal of the conference was to bring awareness. But to be honest it was so much more than that. We were overwhelmed at the impact we as youth can have when we are committed to something. We had the opportunity to break out into small groups and discuss our challenges, hopes, support systems and experiences. Most of us also pledge to work pass our challenges and put our energies toward one common goal: graduating high school. Some of our own teachers spoke to us about their hopes as well. We even got to work hand in hand with the office of councilwoman Diana Reyna and congresswoman Nydia Velazquez.
Thanks to SUEÑA we also had the opportunity to participate in two Drop- out Prevention Rallies. The first rally was at Wall Street were more than 10,000 people were reported. For this event we all created educational signs and many of us spoke to different media groups. The second rally was at City Hall here El Puente Staff, Members, Parents, Educators, Community leaders and Youth joined us at the steps of City Hall to fight for more funding and less cuts to programs which support education.
Taking this ambitious step of reaching parents, teachers, leaders, politicians and other community organizations to address the issue of youth not graduating High School was not easy. But after witnessing the educational challenges young people in the Bushwick neighborhood face and the serious and negative impact this issue has in the community, we all needed to speak up and most importantly we need to act.
This project has been a motivational ride. It has inspired us to keep dreaming about our future dreams. In the months to come SUEÑA leaders will work intensively throughout the summer and with El Puente’ support, we will work with other high school students to start an early intervention and prevent students from dropping-out.
"The future belongs to the nation that best educates its citizens” - President Barack Obama