Written by: Helene Francis and Adah Satre-Pratt, NYLC interns
From July 20th to the 22nd the Youth Action Coalition of National Youth Leadership Council hosted a Youth Leadership Summit in which young people from around the world were able to attend and learn how to become better leaders in their communities and more specifically strengthen their knowledge on education inequities and how they present themselves in different forms. The young activists that attended came from places such as Colombia, Venezuela, South Africa, New York City, Minneapolis, Tennessee, and Dallas. The summit lasted 3 days for 4-hour sessions each of those days.
While I attended I learned things about being an active listener by not waiting to speak but listening to what is said, and by using non-verbal communication such as nodding to convey that you are understanding what's being said. As well, we talked about what young minds are able to bring to any cooperative project that adults may not be able to showcase, and vice versa. These were things such as new ideas, enthusiasm, motivation, and experience. These things were things that I had maybe never thought about before but the most important thing that I learned while attending the summer that week was that to become a leader in your community it is important to focus on what you need to strengthen in yourself and how can you better understand the needs of the people around you before you advocate for them.
After 2 days of informative lectures and slideshow, which intermittently had breakout rooms, we spent the last day of the summit discussing how to apply the information about education and becoming an advocate for your education and your rights. These were things like actively listening to the people around you, privilege mapping, and then going out into your community and seeking change in your schools or neighborhoods.
We discussed how learning about the identities represented in your school has value and some are often underrepresented in media. We learned how to value the privileges you might possess but might not recognize as much as things like economic status, sexuality, race, and gender. Things like if you are able-bodied or not, or if you speak the language that's most commonly spoken in your area were things that I personally had never recognized in myself. These are all things that play into how represented minorities of different types are in schools.
All these things lead up to challenging the people in the call to seek equity in their schools, whether it's by helping support students with fewer resources or finding ways to communicate the things that minority voices might not be able to communicate in the same way. In a world where voices are not represented equally, we must seek ways to support those who cannot be heard by others.
Overall, I learned so much about what it means to be an advocate for education equity and how to be a better activist and support all voices and not just the injustices that apply to my identity. I learned more specifically about the results of education inequity and about how unjust it can really be. Things like unequal treatment or lack of supplies can ultimately lead to people not doing well in school which takes away from their opportunities to be successful after high school in whichever path they take. These are reasons to find creative and alternative ways to change a system that is not meant for everyone and to find ways for students to feel comfortable in schools while getting the best chance they can and ultimately getting an equal opportunity to everyone around them.