Teens Talk Education with Children's Aid NYC and the New York City Council, Department of Education
On Tuesday, May 19th approximately 60 teens met with representatives of the New York City Council, Department of Education administrators and Children’s Aid Society staff at the 2009 Teen Town Hall on Education, appropriately titled “Cut the Cutting,” held at the Adam Clayton Powell Building in Harlem. They discussed issues affecting their education such as truancy, overcrowding, school closings and safety. “I don’t think adults do enough of this which is listen to young people” said Katherine Eckstein, Director of Public Policy at the Children’s Aid Society. These teen leaders from Bronx and Washington Heights community schools provided recommendations on possible solutions to issues that impact their daily school experiences.
One recommendation is that students be held accountable for supplies and furniture by requiring deposits on books, fundraising for new furniture and clean desks. The teens on the council also recognized the need for improvement in staff and programming. They recommended training for security officers, adding “specialty teachers” who teach career specific classes and programs that help build supportive relationships between students and staff.
As members of the Youth Council, the teens have had months of discussions and research in teen leadership groups where they are encouraged to become advocates for their communities. Their own experiences served as a platform to discuss these obstacles and develop potential solutions. Listening to these teens share their stories brings to light how critical the school environment is to the educational experience and the effects it has on education quality and dropout rates.
These recommendations have been sent to the Department of Education administrators and elected officials who were not able to attend the event. What’s next for these teens? The young people who coordinated the teen town hall will be interning this summer with elected officials in city council, state assembly and the state senate and others have jobs working with the kids in summer camps.