November 17 & 18, 2009
Our partnership with YOUTHRIVE, the upper mid-west affiliate of PeaceJam provided us the opportunity to contribute music to the MN State Wide GRADUATION/High School Completion/Drop-Out Prevention SUMMIT, held this past week (Nov. 17 & 18) in St. Paul, MN. It was a really neat event to be part of. I learned a lot. Before the event, I had no idea how much of an issue dropping out really is in our country. The basic stats I recall are these: Every 26 seconds, a high school student drops out. One third of all our students, including half of our minorities students don't graduate.
The first day, educators, various kinds of youth workers and students came together to talk about the current situation, their experiences and ideas. I sang When I Dream and then Put On Your Climbing Shoes to encourage us all to approach the challenges and daunting task ahead with hope and togetherness.
The second day, youth shared their stories and what they think would be effective solutions. Legislators and policy makers came to listen. Cool. I closed the day with three songs and some sharing. We began with a cover of Seasons of Love. Then I briefly shared: "I grew up in challenging circumstances. Those challenges made me who I am today, but without a doubt, the biggest difference in my life was the community that surrounded, the grownups in my life who cared and helped me see that my choices not only effected my own future and hope but also the hope and future of others in my sphere of influence." So I thanked those present for coming to be change-agents and transitioned into Be the Love with the famous quote of Gandhi: "Be the change...." (They all finished the sentence for me.) We closed out with an encore of Put on Your Climbing Shoes. "We've been at a Summit this week, but there's a summit we have yet to reach, isn't there? There's a mountain we have to climb and the only way we can do it successfully is to do it together; so let's do it. "
Students, youth workers, educators, legislators all stood, clapped and sang along. Good times. :)
Photo at the Top: Heatherlyn, Joanne Benson (Former Lieutenant Governor of MN), Rachel (High School Intern of Youthrive) and Donna (Executive Director of Youthrive).
Second Photo: David, Heatherlyn, Jazmin (David & Jazmin are two of the youth who shared their stories and ideas for solutions. They were amazing young people.