For our year-end message, AYPF staff wants to share their wishes and hopes for 2015 for improving the lives of young people in our country. Let us know if you share any of them or tell us what you are wishing for.
Garet Fryar, Policy Research Assistant: “My wish for youth in 2015 is for all youth to have a safe and stable home. Millions of young people lack consistent housing or housing at all, making it difficult for them to focus on their education and future. While definitions of “homeless youth” vary, I hope that in the upcoming year federal policy will redefine homelessness so that housing opportunities are more open to those who “couch surf,” double-up, or have nowhere to go during school breaks. Providing safe and stable housing is an essential part of the foundation for youth to learn and prepare for their future.”
Loretta Goodwin, Senior Director: “My wish for the New Year is that we pay greater attention to heeding student voice. Students spend countless hours interacting with teachers and other adults and they want to have an impact on their education. We can learn a great deal from their feedback through mechanisms such as student surveys. Let’s listen to their voices, discuss their suggestions, and make them active participants in their learning!”
Jennifer Lerner, Deputy Director: “My wish in 2015 is that each and every young person is able to create his or her personalized pathway to long-term success: a pathway that weaves through schools, afterschool/community-based organizations, community service, workplaces, and other supportive systems that is aligned with their interests and needs. It is my hope that policy can facilitate the ability to create a range of pathways that encourage better coordination and collaboration among the agencies and organizations that create these pathways.”
Shannon Quarles, Operations Coordinator: “My wish for all youth this holiday season is to persevere and hold sacred their dreams and desires. Throughout life, there will be those who will try to convince young people that their dreams are too big, there are too many obstacles, or their dreams are unimportant. Despite this, I wish our youth the perseverance to handle their dreams with care and humbly witness the journey through to the end. Our children are equipped with wonderful and unique abilities, valuable perspectives, and the keen eye to see what generations before may have missed. I wish that these characteristics continue to be individually nurtured by parents, educators, and the community at large so that we may all revel in more victories and triumphs. “
Erin Russ, Program Associate: “My wish in 2015 is for youth to have better access to transportation. This is not something that conjures warm and fuzzy thoughts, but a lack of safe and reliable transportation remains a barrier to postsecondary access and success. Despite a growing number of programs and services available to connect vulnerable youth with education and employment, many young people literally cannot get there. I hope that 2015 brings an expanded conversation about this reality and the opportunities in policy to connect youth with postsecondary success – literally.”
Christine Wilson, Director of Finance and Administration: “There have been many positive changes in our educational system, and because of these improvements we are headed in the right direction to ensure that every child has a fair shot in life. My wish is that we will continue the work required to pave this pathway, complete with safeguards and helping hands along the way, to ensure that no one falls off or gets left behind, ultimately making a better, more perfect pathway equipped to help young people deal with all of the twists and turns they may encounter along the way.”
I would agree with the wishes of my colleagues; they are all actions that we need to take if we are to improve outcomes for young people. I could add a long list of wishes to theirs – all the changes that I’d like to see in policy and programming based on all that we’ve learned over the years. But I’ll restrain from reciting a long list and include two wishes.
My first wish is that our elected officials in Congress govern as statesmen and stateswomen who put the interests of the nation and our people before their own individual interests. There was a time when Congress did function, when they set broad policy goals to move the nation forward, when they reauthorized laws on time, when they pushed partisanship aside and compromised for the common good, and when they focused more on governing and less on electioneering. I wish we see a return to that type of governance soon.
My second wish is that all youth have access to a caring, competent adult who can help guide that young person in the challenging, day-to-day and life choices that teens and young adults face in our sometimes crazy and hard-to-understand world. Life has become more complicated with many more choices, and making decisions and finding one’s way can be hard. Young people need a family member, a trusted mentor, a caring advisor or teacher, or a dedicated caseworker to help negotiate the challenges of completing high school, pursuing postsecondary education or training, selecting a career, creating healthy relationships, and being civically engaged.
Our final group wish is that all of our readers have a wonderful holiday season with family and friends and that together we can make 2015 a better year for youth.
Betsy Brand, Executive Director and the AYPF Team