We Made a Promise in 2020. Here’s How We Delivered.

We Made a Promise in 2020. Here’s How We Delivered.

By Moneka Stevens | Director of Community Engagement, Future Focused Education
photo courtesy of Alisdare Hickson

In the summer of 2020, thousands of young people led protests elevating their voice about generational injustice facing their communities. Organizations throughout the country wrote letters of support and solidarity against oppression and injustice including Future Focused Education. 

In June 2020, we made a pledge to young people. We committed to reimagining our schools as spaces as tools for justice in our communities and liberation, and now we’d like to share the new approaches to our work.  

Read the full pledge: We Hear You and We Will Follow Your Lead

What did we do?

After our pledge, we went on a journey of deepening our work of unpacking and disrupting systemic racism internally as well as externally. Internally, our staff did a series of professional development workshops with an equity coach and had uncomfortable conversations that allowed us to grow collectively.

Now anti-racism is interwoven into all aspects of our work: in how we recruit Board members, hire staff, and identify partners who are invested in decolonization of our schools. 

We just launched our 2021 Equity Report detailing our work dismantling oppressive systems, and our impact thus far. Please take a look:

Flipping pages of the magazine style layout of the Equity Report featuring images of students at work.READ THE FULL EQUITY REPORT
Young people have the answers

Initially we assumed only school staff in the Leadership Schools Network, policy makers, and employers were the focus of our work. Quickly, we learned our external work also included young people, as we saw them actively uprising in the streets fighting for justice. Young people are the closest to the problems, and they are closest to the answers. 

Knowing this, we went beyond simply serving young people — we allowed them to be drivers of the work. We intentionally partnered with young people as agents of change in the following ways:

  • Piloted new graduation pathways via The New Mexico Graduation Equity Initiative, in partnership with New Mexico Public Education Department. The Youth Participatory Action Research process engaged students to strategize how capstones are connected to community and youth leadership.
  • Advised the NM Public Education Department on how to better serve the needs of young parents. Our X3 cohort of young parents and teen moms elevated issues and devised solutions.
  • Developed the International District Youth Coalition and structure for youth to be in paid internships and community experiences that are directly impacting the health and prosperity of their neighborhood.
  • Launched The Reciprocity Project,a coalition of nonprofits, community organizers, and education innovators that are working together to build a new kind of school truly in service to their communities.
  • Using in-depth feedback from students and leaders at Earth Care Santa Fe, the first Reciprocity Project school, Community Leadership High School, is scheduled to open in 2022.

Please read through our 2021 Equity Report, where we explore these initiatives and their outcomes.

Working together for systems change

We have a unique opportunity through our work in spaces with policy makers including the New Mexico Public Education Department, the cabinet, and our community of teachers, school leaders, employers and young people. By including young people as decision makers we have a robust understanding of how to build a more just and liberated system for our communities.  

We acknowledge we are on a continuous learning path as we work to deconstruct white supremacy. We continue our commitment to racial equity through our commitment to young people. We will continue to put them at the center, leading the way. This work is not being done for them, it's being done in partnership with them. 

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