VIDEO: Young Leaders Share Stories with Dept. of Education

December 13, 2012

Read the Council's recommendations >>

On October 1, 2012, a group of young leaders from around the country met with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Assistant Secretary Deb Delisle, and their staff to present their policy recommendations to improve access and opportunity for all youth in the United States. 

The National Council of Young Leaders is a diverse body of young leaders from across the United States who advise policy makers and funders on issues affecting low-income youth and their communities.  From both urban and rural low-income areas, The National Council of Young Leaders reflects the enormous untapped intelligence and talent of our nation's young people.

SparkAction was there for the meeting, and we captured it on video. Watch highlights from the meeting and hear from some of the Council:


PhilanPhilan Tree

Shawnice Jackson

We asked a couple members of the National Council on Young Leaders -- Philan Tree of Flagstaff, Arizona and Shawnice Jackson of Baltimore, Maryland -- to tell us a little bit about their experience meeting with the Secretary of Education, and what advice they have for other young leaders who have the opportunity to meet with community, state, or national leaders.

Philan is originally from Tolani Lake, Arizona, which is located on the Navajo reservation. She was selected by The Corps Network as a 2012 Corpsmember of the Year, and now to serve on the National Council of Youth Members as the Corps Network representative. In the Council, she represent low income youth in rural America as well as Native American youth. Working in various local communities has helped her voice youth concerns and issues at the national level, and it is a great honor for her to be part of this much needed opportunity.

Shawnice, 24, is a young professional committed to the advancement of positive youth development through mentoring and advocacy. A native of East Baltimore, Shawnice graduated from Eastern Technical High School and is currently in her senior year at Notre Dame of Maryland University, where she is majoring in Criminology and Social Deviance. Shawnice hopes one day to begin her own youth development program and to become a juvenile court master.

What was your biggest take away from the meeting, and what has to happen next?

Philan: My biggest take away from the meeting is that no matter what issues and concerns we face, there must be a greater effort to work with one another and constantly keep communication open. Secretary Duncan and his team seemed to have a sincere interest in how services are being received by youth and in what ways we can improve especially in rural America. 

We all came to an understanding that when you request something to change in one area, sometimes that means giving up something else but if we work together these changes can be for the better.

Shawnice: My biggest take away from the meeting was the feeling that Secretary Duncan and Assistant Secretary Delisle truly understood the reality of the education barriers we are facing as young people, especially opportunity youth. They listened intently to our concerns and provided heartfelt answers and action steps towards sustainable change, and challenged us to utilize our talents and skills to continue to lead the movement for change. I walked away from the meeting feeling inspired and energized.

Since the meeting, I've been brainstorming ways to champion the movement for education equity within Baltimore City.

What's your adivce for other youth preparing for a big meeting with leaders?

Philan: My biggest advice to youth preparing for these meetings would be never forget who you are and where you come from. This will help scare away butterflies.  I also suggest doing a little research on the topics to be discussed. Knowledge will empower you and allow you think about the issue in different ways.  And, never be afraid to ask questions, and never be afraid to give a truthful answer.

Shawnice: I would recommend fellow youth who will attend future meetings with Secretary Duncan to remain open and authentic when addressing issues close to their hearts. You are guaranteed to get a warm and genuine reception at the Department of Education.

Click here to read the Council's policy recommendations, meet the sponsors, circle of allies and champions, and members.