Speaking For Kids

A Forum for Change

“Many politicians say that they will make changes for the better and almost never or never do. How will you be different?”

Eyes widened and the candidates sat up a little straighter in their seats.

This powerful question was delivered from an adult education student at one of the four candidate forums hosted by the Michigan Association of Community and Adult Education (MACAE) and Michigan’s Children. The series of events across the state were very impactful in raising the awareness of issues facing adult education students and the programs that serve them. From Novi to Grand Rapids, Holland to Adrian, legislative candidates were asked tough yet significant questions about issues ranging from education to infrastructure, childcare costs to college tuition and beyond.

What this writer took away from the experience was the opportunity for change in our midst- each event presents a forum for change. Beyond adult ed programs helping students obtain their GED and workplace credentials, legislative candidates became more away of a population ready to be taught, trained and tooled for success.

And whether the students were eighteen-year-old single mothers working two jobs, or a fifty-five-year-old electrician looking to upskill his credentials, the message was consistent and resounding- We are here, We want to be an integral part of our local communities, and We are ready.

What was most important was seeing legislative candidates connecting with students after each forum- sharing laugh, taking pictures, but also continuing to discuss important issues.

The legislative candidates were impacted too. One said in Holland, “I have learned so much today about this issue and I’m committed to solutions”. That is encouraging at a time where educational funding is essential to keeping these programs accessible to the general population.

Another candidate in Adrian shared how she herself attended an adult education program to gain her GED, finding success for her and her family. Several students in attendance told their teacher a few days later that was a powerful moment.

I asked one student why they participated in the forum. After a moment to think she replied, “I have a voice and I want to use it because I want to have success too”.

Perhaps, if we can communicate that message of adult education being a pathway to success, we can continue this forum of change.

– Patrick Brown is an Outreach Associate for Michigan’s Children, in partnership with the Michigan Association of Community and Adult Education

Vote Like Our Future Depends On It

Sometimes we lose track of the fact that our democracy is just like a hiring process. We look at different candidates for the job of representing our priorities in decisions about how to spend tax dollars and how to best structure the many public systems we depend upon. Then, after the campaign interviews, some of us in the “hiring committee” decide what candidate we want.

Now is the time for the job interviews, when we pay attention to what candidates are saying, and make sure that they are being asked important questions. To that end, we are working hard with partners in eight areas of the state to facilitate youth- and family-led candidate forums. This is some of my favorite work for three reasons:

  1. I LOVE working with our partners. The people we are working with for these forums do amazing things for kids and families in their communities every day AND THEN grace me with their assistance in with these forums, because they are so important. It is inspiring.
  2. I LOVE hearing what questions youth, adult students and other caregivers ask policymakers and those running for office when given the chance. Some confirm what we know to be true about the barriers people face, others are surprising and always informative to our work.
  3. And, of course, I also LOVE hearing the answers and seeing the power of direct interaction between constituent and candidate. We hear time and time again from the candidates involved that these forums are the campaign experiences that they enjoy the most.

After the job interview, we will decide who to hire. One of our staff wrote this phrase in a draft document, “Vote like our future depends on it.” I really like that, mainly because I know that it is true. We all know that decisions we make during this election will determine priorities in policy and investment for the next decade. This month, Michigan’s Children is starting our “Why I Vote” campaign. For me, voting is a huge responsibility, however, we know that many people don’t feel empowered to vote, or just aren’t able to, so we are gathering perspectives on why people around the state are taking that step to participate in the hire.

After the hiring is done, we supervise our new hires. We help them make connections between the decisions they are making and the things they said and learned from the hiring process. We help them better understand the people they are working for and how to do their job well. They need training, like most new hires, and they need support. We are there to give them that.

While I do like the job interview, and I also like the responsibility of hiring, I have devoted my professional life to the supervisory part. I know that all of our new hires (some more than others…) will disappoint us, some will not do what they said they would do during the job interview. And we will be there to gently (and sometimes not so gently) guide them back and make sure that they have all of the resources and backing that they need to help us move the state forward.

We need you to pledge with us to supervise the people we hire, beginning this November until the day they leave office. This is a pledge to follow up our vote with more action, to use our power as their supervisors to help them see the best path forward by connecting them with the most valuable resources that they have at their disposal – US, and the people who we serve.

Take this interview process seriously, vote as if our future depends on it, and then pledge to join Michigan’s Children for action.

Michele Corey is Michigan’s Children’s Vice President for Programs

Meet Ryan, Our Newest Intern: A Quality Education for All

As a child, I was first exposed to the inequities of our society. I grew up in the metro-Detroit area and received a top-tier public education. This paved the way for me to go on to the University of Michigan and earn my bachelors and masters degrees there. Attending a university like U of M gave me the necessary tools to complete an internship at the Democratic National Committee, the White House, and now, Michigan’s Children.

All of this is to say, without the amazing k-12 public education that I received as a child, my life would have turned out to be incredibly different. I would not have been prepared to take on the rigors of a world-class university, which would have made it much less likely that I would end up sitting here writing this blog post. I was lucky. Due to the circumstances of my birth, I was placed in a district that had an abundance of resources for me to draw on. I even got the chance to learn Chinese and go with my 8th-grade class on a trip to China. Just 20 miles down the road, however, kids are receiving an education devoid of the basic resources necessary for them to succeed.

These kids also attend a public school, which does not even have enough textbooks for each student. The ones they do have are outdated. The building is not completely heated in the wintertime. Very few of these kids have ever left their neighborhood, much less the state of Michigan or the country. Worse still, an 18-year-old student is set to graduate, and she cannot spell the name of her own street. Last year, I was an AmeriCorps VISTA working in the Detroit Public Schools, and I witnessed these things firsthand. These kids wanted to succeed so badly, but in these conditions, it was near impossible to do so. How can you do well enough on a standardized test to gain admission into college if you cannot even spell the name of your street? This was a monumental failure on the part of our state, the place where I was born and raised, and the place that I love.

In this great state of ours, how is this dichotomy in public education allowed to persist? By allowing it to continue, we are perpetuating a cycle of class stagnation and hopelessness amongst the most vulnerable amongst us. By depriving so many kids of a quality education, we are stopping them from achieving their true potential. This is not something that I want to stand idly by and watch happen, so I decided to do what I could to ensure that the next generation will not have to experience this same vast dichotomy.

For the summer, I decided to take a research internship with the amazing organization, Michigan’s Children. They are incredibly committed to making a difference in the lives of our state’s children, which is what drew me to them in the first place. As a student of public policy, I know that legislation and advocacy are the avenues by which we can enact truly meaningful change. I’m hoping that my research of how to best provide education funding to impoverished students will assist Michigan’s Children in their advocacy work, and ultimately, lead to a state that provides all of its kids with the necessary resources to succeed.

Ryan Bartholomew is a summer intern for Michigan’s Children. He is currently a master’s student at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy, where he also received his bachelor’s degree. Ryan’s background is in domestic policy and American electoral politics, and he hopes to go on to earn a Ph.D. in political science.

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