I grew up in a community with one public high school.
That’s not to say that decision making about education initiatives in rural areas come without their share of challenges and politics. If anything, I’ve learned that democratic processes in any community are incredibly complicated and intensely local.
But something about my recent move to Indiana seems like a new animal. I drove 10 hours south, from rural Upper Michigan, to a state that is debating major legislative issues around education ranging from bully prevention, to policies on gang activities, to early childhood education. I moved to a city that holds 11 public school districts serving over 37,000 students, in addition to a number of private, charter, and alternative schools. I’ve moved to a city that is grappling with the implications of a proposal for a mayoral takeover of the public schools and a redesigned school system.
And I’ve jumped into a position with an organization that navigates through the thick of it all. With initiatives in early intervention and prevention, drop-out prevention, summer learning, policy work and youth advocacy, and youth program quality—this has been a lot to take in.
The most encouraging thing about all of this is that I’m working for an organization that is really insistent on the importance and presence of youth voices in these matters.
So as I enter into my VISTA year as one of two Student Success Initiative Coordinators for MCCOY, I am excited to continue to engage in this learning process alongside high school youth on the Youth Advocacy Council. Because, let’s face it, they know a lot more about what it means to be a Hoosier (what IS the origin of that word?) than I. And the perspectives I’ve heard from them so far have been invigorated and local and complicated and visionary.
To learn more about how the YAC advocates for youth issues in central Indiana or to get involved, click here.