Milwaukee Cityscape


Milwaukee summit charges students to be change-makers—and for adults not to stand in their way

“Education is where it begins; [it’s] the foundation of a life and a legacy.”

With these words, the Center for Youth Engagement Training and Technical Assistance Director Jeremy Triblett opened the Schools and Community CONNECTED Education Summit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Dec. 8.

Much of the day’s conversation stemmed from the idea that young people have all the intelligence, creativity, and drive they need to be successful—unfortunately, adults (and society at large) often limit this independence or otherwise fail to provide the support that young people need to develop their own potential.

“Too often, our students are boxed in by our imaginations and expectations for them,” Dr. Elizabeth Drame, professor in the Department of Exceptional Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said in her keynote address. “[It’s about] seeing and believing in their own creativity and individuality.”

To achieve equity and dignity, adults must ‘redistribute the power’

A series of powerful breakout sessions explored how to increase authentic youth voice in schools, highlighted the city’s exceptional after-school programs, and discussed dignity, race, and citizenship in education.

In her session on dignity, race, and citizenship, Monique Liston, Ph.D. candidate in Social Foundations of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, commented on the need for more adults to support students.

She argued that each individual must work to understand his or her own power as a member of the community.

“The biggest thing we can do in working towards equity and dignity is redistribute the power,” Liston said. “And that means our power as adults, as the educated, as native English speakers, et cetera.”

Putting words into action

Overall, the event brought together nearly 225 educators, non-profit executives, expanded learning professionals, community leaders, and, importantly, about 50 high school students for a day dedicated to establishing community-wide collaboration around improving graduation rates.

In the day’s final session, the adult participants were asked to put their words into action by providing a young person with their personal contact information—a way to continue the links of support created at the summit well after the program concluded.

In the short-term, Triblett explained, this action was about accountability. In the long-term, providing young people with adult support is about helping Milwaukee’s students tap into their own latent ability to become change-makers.

“To the young people in this room,” Triblett said, “we hope you make this world way better than we ever could.”

America’s Promise Alliance is working with community partners across the country to host 100 community summits through March 2017. This initiative is part of its GradNation goal to reach a 90 percent on-time high school graduation rate by 2020.

Each community summit convenes multi-sector leaders to identify challenges facing young people in their communities and develop strategies to address them. To learn more about community summits or find one in your area, visit GradNation community summits.