Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"Be the Changers" to Re-Converge at GSPHE Summer Conference!

Many of you will remember in May our report back from the 2nd annual “Be the Change” Youth Convergence in which we shared our excitement about this year’s chosen issue--public education. It’s time for an update on what the “Be the Changers” are up to now!

As a recap: In 2009, the first convergence was held at Koinonia Farm near Americus, GA. The youth in attendance participated in workshops and discussions and ultimately decided to focus their combined statewide efforts on "truth in recruitment" issues over the next year. The original group, along with many who joined their forces, achieved a number of de-militarization successes in GA.

In May 2010, the second youth convergence was held again at Koinonia. This year, the youth in attendance decided to focus their energies over the next year on Georgia's public education crisis. We again formed four committees--Legislation, Media, Art, and Direct Action. In addition, we agreed upon five major points that we think youth (and those who support youth) in Georgia should use as guiding goals in our work. As a reminder, those points were:

Young people, particularly those at the K-12 level, have the right to a quality education.

Students are not ATMs. We didn't cause this crisis, and we shouldn't have to pay for it.

We don't want to fix this problem at the cost of other important programs of social uplift that are also being underfunded. We need to explore new solutions.

We need our teachers and school workers!

While we are in the process of pursuing statewide solutions, we cannot forget to lend a hand in our local communities through mentoring, tutoring, supporting teachers, etc.

Over the summer, individuals have been pondering these five points, researching, and spreading the word to their friends. The four committees have been meeting via conference calls to brainstorm, set goals, and decide what form their projects will take. The entire group of "Be the Changers" (including more and more who have jumped on board the committees via word of mouth since May) have been deciding how to best address the urgent need for change in Georgia's current education crisis.

Finally, it's time to get back together, introduce all the new faces, report back on what the four committees have been working on, and collaborate with those already working on education in Georgia. The FREE Summer Conference being hosted by the Georgia Students for Public Higher Education on August 7-8 in Atlanta is going to be a great opportunity to do that.

The "Be the Change" group includes high- schoolers and is focusing on K-12 as well as higher ed, but we have a lot of overlap with the higher ed movement and can benefit hugely from combining our efforts in that department. For that reason, we are proposing that everyone interested in the "Be the Change" Youth Education Campaign come to the summer conference to get plugged in. The GSPHE organizers of the Summer Conference are creating a space on Saturday the 7th during the conference for this “Be the Change” meet-up info-sharing session.

During the session, we will have at least one member of each of the four committees present a brief summary of what the committee has worked on so far and what ideas are on the table for the year moving forward. We will talk about how we can work together with each other and other organizations and what we should prioritize as we move into the school year.

The conference is going to be the best way to meet your fellow activists in person and the most FREE way for all of us to reunite since GSPHE is providing FREE registration, FREE housing, FREE food, and travel stipends!! The conference is open to students, educators, parents, and anyone else interested in education in Georgia. Although the conference is free, you still have to register. Click here to register and provide your info for the free food, housing, and travel. Kick off the school year right!

Stay tuned for a report on the August 7th “re-convergence” session. To join the Youth Education Campaign’s email list or to join one of its committees, email me at See you in Atlanta!

Erica Schoon
American Friends Service Committee

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