I read about high school graduation rates – how to raise them, how to measure them, who’s falling behind and why. Every day, my colleagues and I share and read studies, news reports and op-eds written by experts in the field, and I love reading them.
And yet, I often find myself learning the most from pieces written by young people themselves—the real experts not just on education, but on all the issues that concern them and have an impact on their lives.
As we celebrate the young people crossing the stage, take a look at a handful of my favorite youth blogs and op-eds from this past year.
What Students Like Me Really Need
“As a student, I’m told where I need to go but not how to get there or what it will look like.”
What good are afterschool programs and free college applications if students don’t know they exist? That’s the question, among others, that 17-year-old Anna Populorum explores in a blog about what students like her really need to graduate.
School discipline: Chart a path toward 'a world that is not yet'
“Whenever a fight broke out between high school students, a security guard or police officer would run to the scene, pepper-spray the kids, tackle them, handcuff them and pop them in a squad car. For most of my friends and me, this wasn’t out of the ordinary. It was our normal.”
When Minnesota’s state legislature recently debated a discipline bill that threatened to discriminate against students of color, 18-year-old Rogelio Salinas presented a compelling alternative.
I'm a Young Black Male, and this is Why I Want to be a Cop
“I’m suffering from a fatal disease called lack of unity. And I look around and all I can see is poverty.”
A year ago, 18-year-old Ti’Andre Bellinger wrote about why he wants to be a police officer. A former youth board member of America’s Promise, he recently emailed me to let me know he was officially accepted into the police academy.
Break down the barriers facing disabled students
“Though I sometimes feel the burden of my existence, I will not be bound by the limitations set before me, by those of my body or by those of this world. I will continue to tell the world that when you lessen the opportunities and expectations of young people, their disability is not what's crippling them. You are.”
As the recent Building a Grad Nation report confirmed, students with disabilities graduate from high school at far lower rates than their peers. Ola Ojewumi knows firsthand what it’s like to be a student with disabilities, and in this op-ed for CNN.com she lays out plainly what the real barriers actually are. Be forewarned: They’re not what you think.
I'm 18, and I'm fighting a battle against homicide
“We need more recreation centers in communities, we need more programs for teenagers who feel like they are without a family to fill their void of loneliness. There should be—No, we need tighter laws on gun control to ensure that under-aged teens are not given the power to take lives over minor situations and mishaps.”
In the past five years, 18-year-old LaShawn has lost nine family members to homicide. As she points out in this powerful speech, Washington, D.C. saw a 54 percent increase in its homicide rates in 2015, with the majority of victims being young black men. What should we do to stop more lives from being lost? Read LaShawn’s answer.
Whether they’re advocating for policy changes, better schools or services, or simply sharing their personal stories and experiences, young people can tell us what we need to know to help them overcome challenging circumstances, graduate high school and work toward becoming successful adults.
So when young adults make their voices heard, it’s always the right time to stop talking and listen.
John Gomperts is the president and CEO of America’s Promise Alliance.