Schools that Work For Us
After 6 years of running campaigns on single issues that were affecting young people, like attendance or discipline, we decided that we had enough research, data, and experience to build a platform that would include all the pieces that young people have been talking about over the years.
We needed to see the whole picture, not just a slice of it. We also grew tired of “experts” thinking they were the only ones who had solutions. We stand strong in our truth that young people have expertise that must be cultivated, recognized and respected, and then acted upon if our educational system is truly going to improve.
What do we mean by a framework?
We mean a way of looking at and analyzing our educational system that begins with knowing our country’s history, that literally puts young people who have been marginalized at the center, and that is built on their lived experiences, analysis, and brilliance.
The Schools that Work For Us framework is meant to be comprehensive. These themes were developed in 2018 when young people compiled 6 years of Hearing Youth Voices research and data that had been collected via surveys, interviews, and hundreds of youth meetings since 2012. We then organized the issue areas into categories and came up with these 8 themes.
From there, we launched a community series in which we shared the Schools that Work For Us framework with more than 150 people, to get feedback and more ideas. We also talked to young people across the state to “test” the framework and see if it reflected their experiences.
We found that it did, especially with young people who attend majority-Black and Brown schools in cities in Connecticut. Therefore, though the framework was originally developed in New London, it’s relevancy extends across the state. The framework is important to us because it provides a road-map for our work as we move forward. We’re not going anywhere. We intend to work on the issues named here for many years, transforming schools in Connecticut so that they “work for us” too.
Once we invented the framework, and started to digest it, we realized that it can actually be applied to organizations and other types of institutions, not just schools. We’ve started to apply it to our own organization to hold ourselves accountable.
Lastly, it’s not perfect. The majority of young people who built it are not undocumented, for example. Nor are they trans or gender non-conforming. We encourage and welcome young people in other places to build out your own lists of issues and solutions. We hope the framework and it’s themes can help!
The Inventors of the Schools that Work For Us Framework & the Authors of this Report are:
Andhrose Bazil, Taylin Santiago, Aaliyah Figueroa, Twok Burrel, Eliza Brown, Zeraiah Ramos, Shane Brooks Fletcher, Shawn Brooks Fletcher, Azzure Brown, Tareonna Alger Rodriguez, Mariana Fermin, Shaneva Edwards, Shykarah Fareus & Adult staff Yanitza Cubilette, Maya Sheppard, chelsea cleveland, & Laura Burfoot.
BIG shout outs to Step Up New London, Students for Educational Justice, Make the Road CT, St Francis House, and Granite State Organizing Project/Young Organizers United for helping us hone and refine the framework.
BIG gratitude to St James Episcopal Church for donating space for our Schools That Work For Us Community Series.
BIG shout out to the Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing for your funding support for this project. More big shout outs to all of our funders- Perrin Family Foundation, Graustein Memorial Fund, Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, Palmer Fund, and the Ben and Jerry’s Foundation.