January always catches me by surprise. Rather than a dead patch of cold and recovery after holidays, it is a call to renewal. And a good time to reboot your priorities, according to Alfred, Lord Tennyson. This is what is ‘ringing’ in my mind in 2019:
Look at all the common love of good around us, some of which is captured in this newsletter. It is National Mentoring Month where we rededicate ourselves to be advocates for and a meaningful presence in the lives of children not our own. While we focus on academic achievement as a gateway to a healthy and productive adulthood, educators and policy makers are paying more attention to social and emotional skills and the safety and health of our students as well as their GPAs. We celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King with a day of service that is for many the beginning of a year of sustained effort in building a beloved community.
Service generates many returns individually and collectively. Giving back, discovering your own strengths, flexing your civic muscle, finding your voice, acting with compassion … these are some of the competencies we derive from volunteering. They are arguably of equal if not greater value to a community and a democracy than a tidy park or a sparkling library.
The opportunities for young people to do meaningful service and reap those benefits are inequitably distributed, just as are access to a multitude of caring adults, a healthy start in life, an excellent education and safe places to learn and grow. These are the promises that every child needs to thrive and we as adults need to provide.
Many young people do not have the time, resources or encouragement to volunteer. They may be caring for family members, or holding down a job while attending school. Volunteering may seem as either a luxury or unpaid labor.
But we need them and they need the power of service to unlock and deploy their talent, enthusiasm for the things that matter most in their lives. As a country, we need to engage and utilize the power and influence of young people themselves.
That’s why we’ve launched the Power of Youth Challenge a partnership with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and Peace First to encourage and inspire young people to use their voices, skills and talents to bring positive change to their communities.
Through the Power of Youth Challenge, young people will create and lead service projects that not only improves their communities, but also teaches them valuable leadership skills that will serve them well now and in the future. With coaching from mentors on our digital hub, they will learn how to identify a need in their community, create a service project plan and apply for a grant to put the project into action.
They will receive tools and coaching to help them research and design their service project. If they complete the process each could receive a mini-grant of up to $250 to make their project happen. They will make a difference, learn a lot about their community and their ability to make it a better place to grow up. Those who apply will be eligible for an acceleration grant the next year.