Youth Apprentices Suggest Drop-Ins, Social Media to Reduce Drop-Out Rate

By Body of Christ News

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that all of today’s youth are apathetic. It simply is not true. Proof positive: on June 5, 2009, approximately 70 high school youth came to the Colorado Convention Center as part of the 5th Annual Economic Summit to develop strategies to help reduce the rising high school drop rates in Colorado.

Each year, the Summit presents a track for youth enabling them to start early with their economic/financial education. “One of the biggest issues impacting the economic future of youth is education and the enormously high rate at which they are dropping out of school,” stated Carla Ladd, Founder of the Summit. “We decided to make education–and particularly the high drop out rates–the focus this year for youth. And who better to address the issue than youth, themselves.” The all-day track was set up as a contest dubbed the “Youth Apprentice Contest” due to the fact that the keynote speaker for the Summit was Dr. Randal Pinkett, 4th Season Winner of the Apprentice with Donald Trump.

“Reality shows often get a bad rap because they do not focus on anything positive or constructive,” stated Angelle Fouther, Youth Apprentice Chair. “But so many youth watch these shows that it has become a part of their culture. So taking that familiar premise and turning it around to create a positive and intellectually challenging contest was the best way to get them involved. We sought to give the youth a real life problem, one that they were particularly suited to help solve.”

The day began at 8 am for the youth who were placed onto seven teams, each assigned two adult coaches. Each group had approximately four hours to complete their task utilizing the tools provided – a laptop for each group equipped with Internet Cards and donated by the City of Denver, markers, paper and their imaginations.

Team Drop In from the Youth Apprentice program with their $1500 check

Team Drop In from the Youth Apprentice program with their $1500 winner's check after the contest to come up with ideas to reduce high school drop out rates.

They started with icebreakers and then reviewed drop out statistics, both local and national. They next brainstormed strategies and created messages that they felt would reach those hardest hit in terms of drop out rates. Teams then developed a 3-5 minute presentation including their slogan, campaign strategies and explanations of why they felt the campaign would work, how they would disseminate the message to their target audience, and how effectiveness would be measured.

Dr. Pinkett was the perfect motivator for this endeavor. He took time at the beginning of the day to offer words of wisdom to the youth. “All of you here today are winners,” he stated. “I can look in yours eyes and tell that you are smart and that you all will succeed. But you are winners mostly because you have taken time out to find a way to help your peers succeed as well.”

He told them that it was not all about the prize money but added: “this is still a competition, so I expect you to put on your game face and bring your “A” game. I will see you all in the ‘Board Room’.” With that the kids were energized and ready to start!

The panel of judges included Dr. Pinkett, Happy Haynes, Assistant to the Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, and Judith Martinez of the Prevention Initiatives of the Colorado Department of Education, and sponsors Augillian Lewis of Xcel Energy and Dave Gandara of MoneyTree. Two youth peer judges served as well.

Dr. Pinkett faced the teams after all points had been tallied to announce the new Youth Apprentices. He stated that all teams were winners for stepping up to the task and because each of the presentations offered helpful strategies to help reduce the drop out rate. Each participant was presented with a certificate and a $10 gift card, donated by Xcel Energy.

The group who called themselves the “Drop Ins,” comprised of team members Kirasten Blair, Aldon Boudy, Zoe McNeal, Avery Boyd, Kevin Collins, Cayla Harris, Chudney Jones, Verly Ramirez, Monique Wortham, and Alvin Boudy, and Coaches Mari Floyd and Corey Terry, were crowned the Youth Apprentices and were awarded $1,500.

The Drop-Ins, whose slogan was: “Drop-Ins supporting one drop-out at a time,” proposed a peer support system where Drop-Ins would motivate and encourage other youth on a one-on-one basis to help them to stay in school and graduate. Other things proposed by the Drop-Ins were encouraging youth who were not going to attend college to seek out other vocational opportunities. They also stated that measures needed to be taken to have peers reach out to those youth who have already dropped out.

The runner up team, “The Graduates,” led by coaches Dana Williams and Tommy Verner of the Denver City and County Office of Economic Workforce Development were comprised of members of the Youth LeadershipTeam of Denver’s Safe City Program. They entered the contest as a fund raiser for the program and donated the $500 winnings to their Youth Team Building Fund.

The Graduates, who presented their strategy wearing caps and gowns, highlighted the following peer to peer strategies: after school Rap and Support Sessions; dramatizations through the “Game of Life” (a game they devised to show students their probable outcomes based on choices made), and a Peer to Peer Drop Out Hotline.

Some methods teams suggested included obtaining political support, school assemblies, radio and T.V., social media — such as You Tube and My Space, and text messaging campaigns all driven by youth.

Committee volunteer Nicole Edwards said the adult coaches, many who work with youth as their profession through the Public School System or through the City and County of Denver shared with her that they “had a blast working with they kids.”
Many of the coaches were alumnae of The Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce’s Chamber Connect leadership training program. “They are ready for next year,” Nicole added.

Other adult coaches included Willard Hart, Eno Ocansey, Mary Louise Lee- Hancock, Calvin McGee, Kim Desmond, Jenn Garcia, Jessie Lunsford, Daniel Von Tilius, Leslie Juniel, Theresa Kimmet, Antoinette Hudson, Ernest Mackey, Nikki Floyd.

A meeting between the Youth Apprentice planning committee and representatives of DPS and the Colorado Department of Education has been planned to discuss integrating some of the youth’s strategies into drop out prevention planning.

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