Author: Susan Diaz, Senior Director of Member Enagement
Thursday morning on July 13, in Washington, D.C., education enthusiasts and advocates from all over the U.S. gathered for the Raise the Bar: Engage Every Student Summit. The summit was hosted by the U.S. Department of Education in coordination with The School Superintendents Association, Afterschool Alliance, National Summer Learning Association, National League of Cities and the National Comprehensive Center at Westat, five prominent organizations. The event brought together students, education leaders in states and local communities, and organizations working towards equitable learning opportunities. The Summit is the second hosted by the U.S. Department of Education that highlights Secretary Cardona’s call to action to “expand opportunities for high quality afterschool and summer learning.” The summit commemorates the launch of the Engage Every Student initiative one year ago. The Department recognizes the power of out-of-school time to help students thrive. With thought-provoking workshops, inspiring fireside chats, remarks from Senator Lisa Mukowski, Governor Led Lamont, Senator Chris Murphy and a prominent youth presence, this summit is leading the way for leaders to design and grow intentional programming that makes students and families equal partners in the planning process.
Let’s dive into the highlights that made this event a remarkable one.
We began the morning with a Fireside Chat with Cindy Marten, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Education and three youth leaders representing the National Summer Learning Association, Every Hour Counts, and Afterschool Alliance. Elevating youth voices was a strong thread throughout the day and organizers and partners ensured they made it a centerpiece of the experience. The fireside chat had everyone hanging onto every word, with three incredible youth representatives. Mary was representing Nashville After Zone Alliance (NAZA) and Every Hour Counts’ Powered by Youth Voice and rocked it, passionately contributing her voice to the conversation. She shared how after-school supported her re-building connections and relationships after being disconnected for over two years during the pandemic.
Our Every Hour Counts team was honored to lead the workshop Raising the Bar with Youth Voice presenting on the Powered by Youth Voice initiative and what it looks like to authentically partner with you in practice. The session explored the characteristics of youth centered organizations and what it takes to shift our organizational practices to create innovative opportunities for young people to engage in policy and systems change. The workshop spotlighted two of the Powered by Youth Voice communities from Kalamazoo Youth Development (KYD) Network in Michigan and the Nashville After Zone Alliance in Tennessee. Presenters Se’Anna, Regina, Mary, Neema, Deana, and Alexis from the two communities partnered with Every Hour Counts’ Jessica Donner and Hikma Sherka to share strategies for partnering with young people in in the design, implementation, and evaluation of after-school systems and communities. It was powerful to see how youth can shape education policies and practices.
Another highlight of the summit included our network member’s The Opportunity Project Amy Anderson and Jackie Dupont teamed up to show us how collaboration can work wonders. Their workshop, “Learning Happens Everywhere,” told the tale of Tulsa’s OST intermediary and Oklahoma’s largest school district joining forces to support youth and families. The presentation shared how they aligned resources, programs, and supports across different learning settings, and the impact was incredible. It was a true testament to the power of teamwork.
The culmination of the Summit was inspiring, thanks to the amazing youth leaders who stole the show. Regina K. from KYD Network, Kalamazoo Youth Development shared her reflections during the closing plenary on the significance of Out-of-School Time programs. She shared “I think that summer programs and afterschool programs really shaped me to become the leader I am today. So I encourage everyone in here to really think about the drastic role summer and afterschool programs play in youth lives.”
The Raise the Bar: Engage Every Student Summit brought together passionate folxs from all over the country who shared a common goal: providing equitable education for all. This event created a platform to share innovative ideas and best practices. Let’s carry the lessons learned, the connections made, and the inspiration gained as we continue our mission to ensure every student receives the impact of out-of-school time learning.
The summit was inspiring and we encourage all local and state organizations to take action to join together and make a pledge to increase partnerships and access to engage more students. Youth serving organizations can pledge to join the U.S. Department of Education’s call to action, by clicking HERE, and signing on to Engage Every Student. Together, we can shape a brighter future where every hour counts in unleashing the incredible potential of youth.