A Tribute to Ladine Daniels, Jr.

This week we received the very sad news that our good friend Ladine “JR” Daniels had passed away during his sleep this past weekend. We, and everyone who loved JR, are extremely saddened by this loss.

For those of you who don’t know JR, he lived in Charleston, South Carolina and was an AmeriCorps Corpsmember in the Sustainability Institute’s Energy Conservation Corps (shown on left in photo above with Sustainability Institute staff members). We first came to know him at The Corps Network when he was selected as a Corpsmember of the Year in 2012. Since that time, JR has continued to work as a staff member for the Sustainability Institute. He has also worked with us and as a member of the National Council of Young Leaders to promote issues he cared deeply about, including the need for re-entry programs for young people who have been incarcerated.


A wake for JR will take place tomorrow evening at 6 pm, and his funeral will be on Saturday at 12 p.m. at Charity Missionary Baptist Church 1544 E. Montague N. Charleston, SC. Flowers may be sent to Hilton’s Mortuary, Inc., 1852 E Montague Ave., North Charleston, SC 29405-5158.

If you would like to send a donation in JR’s honor, please send it to The Sustainability Institute at 113 Calhoun Street, Charleston, SC 29401. Memorials and tributes are currently being discussed with JR’s family so that they appropriately honor his memory.

Bryan Cordell, Executive Director of The Sustainability Institute (TSI), wrote the following message about JR to TSI’s Board of Directors:

“Most of you had the privilege of getting to know J.R. at our board and staff retreat or other SI functions. J.R. overcame seemingly insurmountable challenges to become a stellar Corps member, program graduate and shining star of our ECC program. For his leadership and dedication to AmeriCorps he was recognized as a 2012 national Corps member of the year. He also served as a member of the National Council of Young Leaders. We celebrated those things that J.R. achieved, but he was so much more than that to all of us. We soon hired J.R. at SI as the ECC team leader and supervisor where he devoted each and every day to helping the young people in our program find renewed hope and success. J.R. didn't see it as a job, he saw his work with us - and his work in the community - as his purpose. And, he was great at it. We had just made the decision last week to promote J.R. to lead and supervise our new Veterans Corps program, a challenge he was ready to take on and without a doubt would have succeeded at.”


We at The Corps Network definitely agree that JR would have excelled in this role, or any that he chose. He was a member of the Marine Corps, and had proven that he was an excellent motivator. One of his friends wrote the following on his Facebook page: “I served with Ladine Jr. Daniels in the Marine Corps. He was always uplifting and kept our little tight knit crew laughing. A phenomenal young man who has accomplished so much. Gone but not forgotten.”

Our friends at Spark Action in collaboration with The National Council of Young Leaders put together a moving tribute video to JR, that features him speaking.



One of the pleasures we have enjoyed at The Corps Network, is seeing how much JR had embraced his role as a spokesperson and become an even more compelling speaker over the past few years.

For instance, you can
 watch his speech at a recent Congressional Briefing with the National Council of Young Leaders. You can also read an updated “where is he now” story about JR from last year, with some fantastic quotes.

We will miss you JR! You are gone but will certainly not be forgotten.

Boiler Plate: 
This week we received the very sad news that our good friend Ladine “JR” Daniels had passed away during his sleep this past weekend. We, and everyone who loved JR, are extremely saddened by this loss.

National Council of Young Leaders shares their Recommendations on Capitol Hill


 

Washington, D.C. -- On Friday, October 3, 2014, the National Council of Young Leaders held a Congressional Briefing to share their Recommendations to Increase Opportunity and Decrease Poverty in America. The Council, comprised of 16 diverse opportunity youth from across the country, developed these six Recommendations in response to some of the most pervasive problems faced by low-income young Americans.

All of the 16 councilmembers contributed their different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives to creating the Recommendations. Some of them spoke about their experiences and personal connections to specific Recommendations during the briefing.

 

Recommendation 1Expand effective comprehensive programs.

                Philan Tree (affiliated with The Corps Network - Flagstaff, AZ) spoke of how comprehensive programs, like Service and Conservation Corps or YouthBuild, provide the wraparound support many opportunity youth need in order to advance their careers and educational goals. Childcare and family responsibilities, transportation issues, the need to work and make money – these are all common barriers faced by low-income young people trying to access the educational or career opportunities that could help them get ahead. Comprehensive programs address these problems, making sure youth don’t have to sacrifice in order to go to school or learn new job skills.


Recommendation 2Expand national service.

                Deon Jones (affiliated with Be The Change - Washington, DC) spoke of how people in poor communities often feel like their situation is a problem that someone else can fix. They don’t feel like they have the power to be part of the solution. Deon talked about how expanding national service to engage more low-income individuals in programs like AmeriCorps or YouthBuild is a way to give people the empowerment to make a difference. When a generation of young people realize that, instead of being served, they can be the “architects” of making healthier, stronger, safer communities, there will be an overflow of prosperity into the generations to come.
 

Recommendation 3Expand private internships.

                Adam Strong (affiliated with YouthBuild USA - Hazard, KY) talked about how many American employers are looking for workers, but our young people don’t have the skills required to fill available positions. Expanding internships is an excellent way to address this issue because interning gives a young person exposure to the work world, hands-on experience, and the chance to develop hard and soft skills. Young people also find mentors through their internships, and build a network of professionals to help them find a job in the future. Comprehensive programs like Year Up provide intensive job skills training and access to corporate internships that give young people a solid footing in the work world.   
 

Recommendation 4Increase all forms of mentoring.

                Ramean Clowney (affiliated with Jobs for the Future - Philadelphia, PA) spoke about how mentors made, and continue to make, a huge difference in his life. Many opportunity youth who reconnect with education or work have a mentor to thank for encouraging them along the way. Anybody can be a mentor, regardless of his or age, and can help someone simply by answering questions, being a good listener, and showing that they believe in their mentee’s potential. Ramean talked about the benefit of having multiple mentors, including people who share your background and can relate to your issues, as well as people who can expose you to new opportunities and communities.
 

Recommendation 5Protect and expand pathways to higher education.

                Shawnice Jackson (affiliated with Public Allies - Baltimore, MD) talked about her own experience navigating the confusing world of college applications and financial aid without guidance or support from people who understood the processes. Shawnice spoke of how students need to be protected from predatory loans and should be equipped with the financial literacy to make good decisions about how to fund their education. She talked about the need for more affordable college options, as well as the need to help students realize their eligibility for certain resources and access financial aid.
 

Recommendation 6Reform the criminal justice system.

                Lashon Amado (affiliated with YouthBuild USA - Brockton, MA) talked about how America is quick to lock people up, but we forget that over 90 percent of prisoners are eventually reintroduced into society. Our system is flawed in that approximately 2/3 of former inmates recommit and once again find themselves behind bars. Lashon spoke of his own experience of “having society turn its back” on him once he had a record. We need to make sure that those who once committed a crime are not shutout from the community and forced back into the illegal activities that landed them in trouble in the first place.

                Ladine “JR” Daniels (affiliated with The Corps Network - Charleston, SC) also spoke from experience about how difficult it can be to reenter society after a period of incarceration. He talked about the need to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act in order to protect young offenders. Ladine talked about how, like Lashon, finding a job was nearly impossible with his record, but, through national service, he was able to get back in the work world and develop a set of skills and credentials to build a career. Second chances for offenders are few and far between, meaning that those who find these opportunities will go into them with all the enthusiasm they can generate. People who might have made mistakes in the past have the potential to do great things and succeed if only given the chance. 

The National Council of Young Leaders: Ramean Clowney on the Need to Increase Mentoring


National Council of Young Leaders banner, painted by council member Francisco Garcia
 

Created in July 2012 in response to a recommendation from the White House Council on Community Solutions, the National Council of Young Leaders is tasked with informing policymakers, business leaders and funders about the issues faced by America’s young people. The 14 founding council members, ranging in age from 18 to 34, come from diverse upbringings in urban and rural low-income communities across the nation. They represent our country’s Opportunity Youth: the 6.7 million young Americans who are neither in school nor working, but who pose enormous potential for our economy and our future if they are provided the opportunity to get on track and get ahead. Though each council member has overcome different kinds of obstacles, they all share in common their participation in transformative youth programs that helped them become the successful young adults they are today.

In the fall of 2012, the Council released its first publication - Recommendations to Increase Opportunity and Decrease Poverty in America. The report outlines specific actions that could help Opportunity Youth and their communities. One of highlights of the publication is the Council’s Six Recommendations for Immediate Public Action: 1) Expand effective comprehensive programs; 2) Expand National Service; 3)Expand Private Internships; 4) Increase All Forms of Mentoring; 5) Protect and Expand Pathways to Higher Education; and 6) Reform the Criminal Justice System.

We wanted to hear the Council Members describe in their own words why these specific Recommendations are important to them and important to the success of America’s young people. Below, find out why council member Ramean Clowney is passionate about Recommendation #4...

Increase All forms of Mentoring:
End the pipeline to prison for children and youth, make sure punishments actually fit crimes, eliminate disparities in sentencing that correlate with race, and end the various forms of lifetime punishments for all offenders that destroy lives, families, and communities. Expand second chance and re-entry programs for all offenders. Expand mentoring programs and elevate both formal and informal mentoring as a core component for all programs serving opportunity youth. Young people need caring individual mentors to give us confidence, respect, and support in planning and working toward a productive future. We need mentors both from a similar background who have overcome familiar obstacles, and mentors from different backgrounds who can open whole new horizons. 
[Recommendations to Increase Opportunity and Decrease Poverty in America, p. 8] 


(Parts of Ramean's bio and his photo were taken from the YouthBuild website)

“I consider myself to be someone whose been dealt a misfortunate hand in life, but I appreciate the hand that I was dealt because I worked through it and I’m happy with where I’m at now in my life. I was in DHS, I was in and out of high school. I was a dropout at  one point. At one point I thought my life was pretty much over. I thought I’d failed myself. Then I started working with people and I found a better path. I made my way out and I got back into school and I graduated with honors. Now I’m in the Community College of Philadelphia. With my story I’m able to sit on the Council and speak for young people that are in my shoes. I really consider myself a voice and an advocate for young people.”

Ramean Clowney, 20, is from Philadelphia, PA. As a child, Ramean experienced the Pennsylvania foster care system and was exposed to violence, drugs and abuse. However, he overcame these hardships and eventually graduated from high school with honors.

Ramean is currently Chief Youth Ambassador for the Philadelphia Youth Network, one of the city’s leading youth programs, in this role, he is one of several advocates for local youth.

Currently a student at the Community College of Philadelphia, Ramean hopes to transfer to Howard University to pursue a bachelor’s degree (and eventually a master’s degree) in political science. He has also considered getting a doctoral degree. Ramean aspires to be on the Philadelphia City Council and maybe even run for mayor.

 

Why is this Recommendation important to you? Important to youth in general?

I believe that mentoring is important to not only young people, but to our elder’s as well because having somebody there for support is really moving. For people that don’t have nobody – that are in the world on their own, maybe an orphan who lost their parents to some incident – maybe they can find a mentor that can help and guide them if a family member can’t. A mentor is more than just someone who can be there; a mentor is somebody that steers you to the right path. If one person is a little lost, a mentor is someone that can somehow make sure they get on the right path.

Do you have any personal experience with mentors?

Yes I do. I met my mentor when I was about 16, being involved with the Philadelphia Youth Network. Kemal Nance. I didn’t recognize that he was a mentor to me until later on in my life when I realized I was seeing change in myself. He wasn’t pushing me to change, he was already doing change with me. It wasn’t like he was telling me, “you have to change this.” He was actually doing things to make me more professional – giving me work ethic, giving me skills that I can use in the work world to better my life.

I met another mentor basically around my senior year and when I entered college – Derrick Perkins. He started moving me up to the next level. He started helping me recognize what I needed to do, what goals I needed to set, what barriers might come my way. He was just there to actually support me.

What do you feel are the most important ways you were helped by your own mentors? What are the most important things you were able to gain from your mentors?

I can’t really figure out the right words to explain it now, but mainly it revolves around myself. I really found who I am and recognized the person that I am. I was able to narrow down to that person that is myself. A lot of time, young people have a tendency to get lost along the way. Sometimes it’s really hard for them to navigate themselves and pinpoint that true self because they’re lost, they don’t know who they are and they want to find themselves. I had the opportunity to be able to recognize who I am and use the skills that I had to better myself. So I guess you could say ‘recognition.’

What do you think is the role of a mentor? What should a good mentor do or be able to do?

A good mentor should at least be able to give good criticism. I think that’s the most crucial thing. I don’t think anyone should have a bougie mentor,  as in they would be really nonchalant about everything their  mentee does. I think a mentor should be someone that’s really straightforward – who’s not nice or mean, but really exemplifies the right emotion towards you to help you better yourself. I think a mentor’s main goal should be to support the young person, or whoever they’re mentoring, and be a guidance to them. Give them that support that they normally couldn’t find in a family member or somebody else that they’re close to at the time. To have the title of “mentor” to someone, they should be that inspiration so that a young person like me would be able to say, “That’s my mentor. He changed my life. He supported me when I didn’t support myself. He helped me recognize what I wanted to do. He helped me realize that anything in life is attainable with a little bit of work.”

Have you personally done any mentoring?

I believe that I’ve mentored with a lot of my peers. When I was just a really young teenager, around 14 or 15, I normally was in a group of people and I was always really friendly with a lot of people, but I never really led. I somewhat led, but I never really, fully led. Then I eventually started working with different programs and being trained by my mentor. At the time, I really didn’t know I was being trained and groomed into becoming a professional. A lot of my friends really looked to me for advice, really looked to me for support. I guided them to help them better themselves and find the right path.

Looking at the Recommendation, it says “we need mentors both from similar backgrounds who have overcome familiar obstacles, and mentors from different backgrounds…” What is the significance of this aspect of the Recommendation? Why is it important to have a diversity of mentors?

Well, I believe there’s nothing better than getting advice from someone with experience. I think that’s most effective. Like for a young person who just graduated from high school – normally they’d have their parents to guide them. Then they go away to college and they fail their entire first semester or entire first year. They weren’t used to being out on their own, they were used to being woken up on time, they were used to having somebody be there to guide them every step of the way. As far as someone to give advice, you don’t want someone who’s just going to say “I don’t think you should do this,” but someone who can say ‘I believe you should set your schedule this way, or work this way because that’s what would be best for you. You still want to be able to have fun, but you need to recognize that you’re not here to do A, B, C, and D. You’re here to get your education, and if you want to have fun then get your education first.” Hearing that would sound better from someone whose been there, because hearing advice sometimes, a person will ask “well, how would you know?” And the best support you can get is, “I’ve been there. I know. I’ve overcome that obstacle.” 

As far as someone that comes from a different background, that can be good, too. Because you can’t find one mentor to fit your exact background, but you can find people that have some knowledge of it. [Having a mentorship with people] from different backgrounds can also work because it’s a relationship that can grow. It’s a bond that can grow. You can learn things from each other, but you’ll still have that person there with that experience. I could be a peer mentor to someone that I’ve just met and whether we either come from similar or dissimilar backgrounds, there’s still a possibility that we can grow because the fact is that we have two different outlooks on things and maybe I can get positive advice and I can give him feedback if he can take criticism. But it all falls under how that mentor is. [You might have a] mentor that has a mindset that’s like, “You must achieve, you must succeed and you must go on and do this, this, this and this and you must work hard.” But if you have a mentor that has a mindset that’s like, “it’s okay, take your time, you’ll be okay,” then they’re not really advocating and trying to push that mentee to the best of his or her abilities.

What do you think needs to happen to make this Recommendation a reality? What can we do to increase the number of people involved in mentoring, whether formally or informally?

Often I hear people say, ‘I’m going to be mentor, I’m going to be a mentor to a young person.’ You can’t just think you can become a mentor to a young person because you say you want to become a mentor. There has to be a one-on-one connection for there to be growth. When I think about it, I believe the best kind of mentor comes maybe not indirectly, but maybe it’s a person that you’d least expect to be a mentor. I don’t know the experience of someone being in a mentoring program, but I don’t think they’re actually beneficial. That’s like someone saying, “I’m advocating and I’m going to be this child’s mentor and I’ll be this person’s Big Brother or Big Sister.” I don’t think a bond being forced is best. I don’t think it’s effective at all.

You think informal, “happen-on-their-own” mentorships are more valuable?

Yes. I do. I believe that for younger people, for the younger generation, a lot of times we – I’m only 20, so I’m partially still part of this group – we typically have this wall up. We have this kind of self-pride that we don’t need nobody. We have a lot of trust issues – maybe it comes from family, maybe it comes from past relationships. If we see that someone is trying to work their way in, we will set up a really, really strong barrier. So in that timeframe was that mentor actually effective? Was you being my mentor actually a help to me, because really this entire time I was not allowing you to help. If someone wants to have a good mentor, I believe they should seek one out in a way…maybe not go out and look for one, but just be able to recognize, “Okay, this is a nice person in heart and mind and has experience and education” or whatever it is that’s most important for that young person to consider them their mentor. I do know that from experience, having [different mentors] with and without and experience works best. You have people that advocate completely differently, but in the end still advocate for the same thing – to see you excel and help you see the things that you do wrong and what you do right. It’s what most people might see as a parent’s job, but that’s what a mentor can be; a parent.

I think it would be much easier if a young person finds somebody that actually wants to listen to them or actually wants to see them excel. A young person recognizes that. They can see that “This person really wants to help me. This person really wants to help me see what I can do and become better at what I do. This person acknowledges me.”

 

The National Council of Young Leaders: On the Need to Expand Private Internships


National Council of Young Leaders banner, painted by council member Francisco Garcia
 

Created in July 2012 in response to a recommendation from the White House Council on Community Solutions, the National Council of Young Leaders is tasked with informing policymakers, business leaders and funders about the issues faced by America’s young people. The 14 founding council members, ranging in age from 18 to 34, come from diverse upbringings in urban and rural low-income communities across the nation. They represent our country’s Opportunity Youth: the 6.7 million young Americans who are neither in school nor working, but who pose enormous potential for our economy and our future if they are provided the opportunity to get on track and get ahead. Though each council member has overcome different kinds of obstacles, they all share in common their participation in transformative youth programs that helped them become the successful young adults they are today.

In the fall of 2012, the Council released its first publication - Recommendations to Increase Opportunity and Decrease Poverty in America. The report outlines specific actions that could help Opportunity Youth and their communities. One of highlights of the publication is the Council’s Six Recommendations for Immediate Public Action: 1) Expand effective comprehensive programs; 2) Expand National Service; 3)Expand Private Internships; 4) Increase All Forms of Mentoring; 5) Protect and Expand Pathways to Higher Education; and 6) Reform the Criminal Justice System.

We wanted to hear the Council Members describe in their own words why these specific Recommendations are important to them and important to the success of America’s young people. Below, find out why council member Philan Tree is passionate about Recommendation #3...

Expand Private Internships:
Support internships that offer paid employment experience with private corporations that provide appropriate supports to the interns and potential for long-term hiring. Establish a corporate tax credit of up to $4,000 for each six-month paid internship offered to low-income young adults that results in employment. Some of us have experienced amazing internships in the private sector through Year Up, coupled with college prep and a supportive community. [Recommendations to Increase Opportunity and Decrease Poverty in America, p. 8]


(Parts of Philan's bio and her photo are from the YouthBuild website)

Philandrian Tree is a member of the Towering House Clan of the Navajo Nation. Her knowledge of the Navajo language and traditions allows her to help build relationships between tribal leadership and local governments. As an AmeriCorps mentor with Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC) – a member of The Corps Network based out of Flagstaff, AZ – Philan was able to secure two memoranda of understanding between Coconino County and the Navajo’s Leupp and Tonalea Chapters. This accomplishment made it possible for homeowners from all local Navajo chapters to receive much-needed Coconino County weatherization retrofits. The collaboration also allowed CREC to employ Navajo AmeriCorps members to work directly with their chapters to install energy efficiency measures in homes throughout underserved Native American communities.

In addition to her work with Coconino County, Philan serves as the chair of the Native American Parent Advisory Committee for Flagstaff Unified School District, where she works with families and the District to support and enhance the quality of education for 2,500 Native American K-12 students.
 

Why is this Recommendation important to youth in general, or to you specifically?

Internships are really good for a lot of youth. It’s not only the job experience; they’re working in a field that they either want to study in or they have studied in. They can realize long-term what their next step in the field might be. Without private internships, a lot of youth would miss an opportunity that they wouldn’t see otherwise.

Why do you think it’s especially important to make sure internship opportunities are available to opportunity youth in particular?

Well generally, if you look at the communities that low-income youth come from, a lot of them don’t have these types of opportunities and a lot of them lack basic resources – even just infrastructure and technology. So for young people to be able to have internships it would be a huge step up in being able to see a different side of the workforce that they wouldn’t normally experience. If you look at the overall population of youth right now, you’re going to really see a trend that we want to offset in the future, as far as youth from low-income communities not being job ready. Internships are a way to give them the working skills that they’ll need to be successful in their future careers.

Can you talk a little bit about your own experience with internships and how you might have benefitted from them?

(Philan interns with a local elected official)
A lot of it has been about the exposure. With the person I’m interning with, it’s not so much a single focus; it’s a really broad focus on everything. Also, there’s a lot of one-on-one guidance that allows for insight and input. With private internships you get a lot of experience as far as how to go about resolving issues, or even just looking at issues more critically. You get different viewpoints. It teaches you to really be open because you have to listen to a lot of suggestions and a lot of recommendations. It’s been very useful.

Internships can really help youth get involved in their communities on a larger level. They can understand how they’re part of the bigger picture. They can see what it would take for them to work at a higher level – maybe not immediately, but definitely in the near future. And then also, they can get their peers involved. They can spread the word about how this is what we need to be doing, this is what needs to get done. That’s especially important for the future generation.

My internship has definitely helped me feel like I’m entering a field that I am interested in, but I’ve also learned that there are other areas that I would like to be more knowledgeable about. There’ve been a lot of personal development opportunities. I want to be involved with the community, so this has given me a really strong foundation to build off of.

What do you think needs to happen to put this Recommendation into practice and make the suggestions a reality?

To get it done, I think there needs to be a strong legislative support that listens to the youth voice that says ‘private internships have positive affects for us and we need to expand current programs that support this such as Public Allies.’ We need partnerships between local governments, NGOs and nonprofits and the business sector as well. There’s a need for better partnering within communities to support youth. 

Something that we’ve done locally [Philan works with a local youth workforce investment board] – you can see what types of businesses are willing to offer opportunities for youth. We went around and talked with local businesses to see if they’d be willing to hire local youth, maybe just for a summer internship. And then we made an inventory of those businesses; who would be willing to and who wouldn’t be willing to. And we didn’t shut out the businesses that said they weren’t willing to. We went back and approached them about it and asked why they wouldn’t be interested. A lot of them said it was because sometimes youth interns are not that experienced; sometimes it’s a training issue, sometimes it was just that employer’s perception of youth. So we sat down and thought, ‘if we’re going to work with those businesses, what if we could create some kind of orientation or training for youth throughout a semester, or something along those lines, so they’re prepared when they get to the internship?’ We can address some of these issues that are creating this cautiousness about hiring youth. A lot of businesses have been open to this idea. So it’s about creating that dialogue at various levels to see what would benefit the youth and the businesses. Internships can benefit the corporations because they will have a viable workforce to choose from in the future. They’ll know where the youth were trained and know they have this background of experience. In our Recommendations we support the establishment of a corporate tax credit of up to $4,000 for each six-month paid internship offered to low-income young adults that results in employment. As youth this is something we take seriously and would like all sectors of our communities benefit from.

Do you think it matters what kind of business or organization a young person interns with? The Recommendations talks about ‘private internships’…

So if you open up to private internships then you’re really opening up to a wide variety of employment opportunities. It’s not just going to be just one corporation that we’re working with, or just one nonprofit. Not all companies offer the same program, so you have to take into consideration that aspect. Also, knowing that a lot of youth are not all going to have the same interest and they’re not all going to have the same background and they’re not all going to want to pursue the same kinds of things. If you open up to more businesses then youth will have a choice about what they’re interested in. And if they find something they’re interested in there will be a higher success rate because they’re going to be a lot more motivated. They’re going to be able to learn a lot a more and they’re going to be more interested in advancing in the field. As long as there’s a strong support established, youth interns will be positively impacted.

 

 

In their own words: Members of the National Council of Young Leaders Discuss their Recommendations for Public Action


Members of the National Council of Young Leaders meet with Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education
 

Created in July 2012 in response to a recommendation from the White House Council on Community Solutions, the National Council of Young Leaders is tasked with informing policymakers, business leaders and funders about the issues faced by America’s young people. The 14 founding council members, ranging in age from 18 to 34, come from diverse upbringings in urban and rural low-income communities across the nation. They represent our country’s Opportunity Youth: the 6.7 million young Americans who are neither in school nor working, but who pose enormous potential for our economy and our future if they are provided the opportunity to get on track and get ahead. Though each council member has overcome different kinds of obstacles, they all share in common their participation in transformative youth programs that helped them become the successful young adults they are today.

In the fall of 2012, the Council released its first publication - Recommendations to Increase Opportunity and Decrease Poverty in America. The report outlines specific actions that could help Opportunity Youth and their communities. One of highlights of the publication is the Council’s Six Recommendations for Immediate Public Action, which are as follows:

1) Expand effective comprehensive programs
2) Expand National Service
3) Expand Private Internships
4) Increase All Forms of Mentoring
5) Protect and Expand Pathways to Higher Education
6) Reform the Criminal Justice System

We wanted to hear the Council Members describe in their own words why these specific Recommendations are important to them and important to the success of America’s young people.

 


 
Read why Recommendation #4 - Increase All Forms of Mentoring - is important to Council Member Francisco Garcia 
Read why Recommendation #5 - Protect and Expand Pathways to Higher Education - is important to Council Member Adam Strong 
Read why Recommendation #3 - Expand Private Internships - is important to Council Member Philan Tree
Read why Recommendation #6 - Reform the Criminal Justice System - is important to Council Member Christopher Prado
Read why Recommendation #4 - Increase All Forms of Mentoring - is important to Council Member Ramean Clowney
Read why Recommendation #4 - Increase All Forms of Mentoring - is important to Council Member Shawnice Jackson
   
   
   
   
   

 

The National Council of Young Leaders: On the Need to Make Higher Education more Attainable


National Council of Young Leaders banner, painted by council member Francisco Garcia


Created in July 2012 in response to a recommendation from the White House Council on Community Solutions, the National Council of Young Leaders is tasked with informing policymakers, business leaders and funders about the issues faced by America’s young people. The 14 founding council members, ranging in age from 18 to 34, come from diverse upbringings in urban and rural low-income communities across the nation. They represent our country’s Opportunity Youth: the 6.7 million young Americans who are neither in school nor working, but who pose enormous potential for our economy and our future if they are provided the opportunity to get on track and get ahead. Though each council member has overcome different kinds of obstacles, they all share in common their participation in transformative youth programs that helped them become the successful young adults they are today.

In the fall of 2012, the Council released its first publication - Recommendations to Increase Opportunity and Decrease Poverty in America. The report outlines specific actions that could help Opportunity Youth and their communities. One of highlights of the publication is the Council’s Six Recommendations for Immediate Public Action: 1) Expand effective comprehensive programs; 2) Expand National Service; 3)Expand Private Internships; 4) Increase All Forms of Mentoring; 5) Protect and Expand Pathways to Higher Education; and 6) Reform the Criminal Justice System.

We wanted to hear the Council Members describe in their own words why these specific Recommendations are important to them and important to the success of America’s young people. Below, find out why council member Adam Strong is passionate about Recommendation #5...

Protect and Expand Pathways to Higher Education:
Make sure that college and registered apprenticeships are affordable and attainable for low-income students. Education awards, scholarships, low-cost community and state colleges, loans that are not predatory or excessively burdensome, and Pell Grants for nontraditional students must be protected and expanded, barriers to obtaining them reduced, and pathways to college strengthened. We understand that higher education is one key to lifelong success. [Recommendations to Increase Opportunity and Decrease Poverty in America, p. 8]


(Parts of Adam's bio and his photo are from the YouthBuild website)

Adam Strong was raised by his father in the Appalachian community of Jackson, KY. After high school, he enrolled at the local community college and took a position as a security guard at a mine. Unfortunately, this job didn’t last long; the mine was in decline and Adam soon found himself unemployed. A friend from high school referred him to the YouthBuild program. 

At YouthBuild, Adam took part in community service and outreach projects, while receiving a stipend. He gained construction skills, and had the opportunity to tutor through YouthBuild as a fulltime AmeriCorps member. The experience helped introduce him to new possibilities and a new perspective on life. 

Adam currently lives in Hazard, KY where he is a student at University of Kentucky. He expects to graduate in December 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory science. He plans to get a job as a medical lab technician.

As a member of the National Council of Young Leaders, Adam has been active in informing policymakers about the issues faced by rural and low-income young people.

Why is this recommendation important to youth in general or to you specifically?

This recommendation is important to me specifically because I go to a four-year university right now and it’s pretty expensive. I actually started out at a community college – one of the main reasons why was just because the cost is a lot cheaper. I’ve been the recipient of a couple AmeriCorps Education Awards, which have helped me out a lot in paying for college. If it wasn’t for them I otherwise would’ve had to take out loans, so I’d be even more in debt.

My whole thing is that even though college is a direct ladder out of poverty or can help people who just want to find success or make more money, you have to go into something that there’s a ready market for. We need better advisors. There are a lot of college graduates that are unemployed right now. I believe that right now there should be more of a focus on professional programs. There are jobs readily available and there are a lot of people that, like I said, are unemployed or they’re just not satisfied after they get their college degree…So I think there’s an informational gap right now and it needs to be closed so that people know the right programs to go into. End game, you don’t want to graduate from college and you have a bunch of debt and you’re not able to put that degree towards a job. So I believe the pathways to education need to be strengthened and I believe there needs to be a strengthening of the information provided to students so that people not only can go to college and pay for college, but also do well and succeed after they get their degree.

That’s my overall feel because a lot of people in my program already got degrees and already have a lot invested in college, so they’re not really getting a payoff at this point. But college is for sure the best way to better yourself or better your situation. It’s what you should do, but at the same time I think you need to be able to make informed decisions all along the different steps of the process.

What do you think are ways we can make higher education more accessible and attainable?

I think education awards – AmeriCorps awards –  they’re a great thing and I think that’s one thing that needs to be strengthened just so more people can go on to higher education. Maybe more people need to be informed about the ways they can access these different service awards just because they offset costs for college a whole lot…Knowledge about them needs to be more available to the public.

Another thing – I know they do this at a lot of med schools – but more schools could have a tuition guarantee. You come in as a freshman and each year that you stay in college and meet the requirements, you get a guarantee that the tuition won’t go up. Because I know at my school – University of Kentucky – they raise the tuition just about every year. But if you stay in the program, it would be nice if tuition guarantee was more widespread. Just a lock-in. It wouldn’t save you a whole lot, but I’d think it could save you couple hundred or even a few thousand dollars over the four or five years it takes you to get your bachelor’s degree.

The Recommendation says higher education should be made more affordable and attainable for low-income students. A lot of the points in the recommendation focus on ways to make college more affordable, but aside from economic factors, do you believe there are certain barriers that make college unattainable for low-income students?

Just in general, if you’re a low-income student then your personal affairs or your personal lifestyle might affect whether you can go to college. There are different types of poverty; it might be money, it might be resources or a lot of other things. If you’re coming from a low-income family, they may not be able to provide you with a vehicle. If you don’t have a vehicle that means you’re going to have to live on campus. But if you live on campus and you don’t have a vehicle, you might need to find a new job. Because you need a job since your family’s not going to be able to give you money throughout college every week...So it’s really just your situation in general – not just being low-income. It’s just your lifestyle or maybe you have family ties and you have to go to a community college, or maybe you have a kid. Low-income people tend to have a lower amount of resources, like information resources. Maybe they tend not to know where to find help to pay for college or all the different programs. There are a lot of different things that can dissuade you from going to school outside just the cost of college. All those are different barriers. For a lot of people have, I wouldn’t say it’s easier, but just because of their situation it might be easier for them to go to college. 

Another thing is that, I know this is true for some of my friends, they make just enough money where they don’t actually qualify for financial aid. When you fill out your FAFSA, you have to put down your ESC – your Estimated Family Contribution. Well, I mean, if you make $50,000 or $55,000 and your mom makes $30,000 – and that’s even if you live in a dual-income household, because as you can see the trend now is a single parent raising two or three kids. In those cases, you’re only getting one resource of money and you’ve got a couple kids, so even if you make $50,000 or $60,000 you might not actually have that money to contribute towards your child’s education. In most cases, I’m not saying families that are well-off, but might be better off than say…well we’ll say in general, my dad is unemployed so I get the full amount of financial aid. But for instance, I can think of two or three specific friends of mine who actually want to go to college, but they make too much money. So they don’t actually qualify for financial aid. If they were to go to college it would be all on academic merit and loans, or just all on loans depending on what kinds of scholarships they qualify for or anything like that. Just being at a certain scale, your family doesn’t really have the money to give you access to college, but at the same time, you’re in the middle. That can kind of dissuade you, too.

The Council states in Recommendation Five, “We understand that higher education is one key to lifelong success.” What does that mean? College is important, but it’s not the only key to success?

Higher education can be a key just because, like I was saying, it in itself is probably the best –but maybe not easiest – way to propel yourself forward. If you want to provide for your family or just do something more, you should probably go to college. Really college just opens up opportunities for you to do other things, make more money, or have different jobs. But it’s only one key because some people, even if they don’t go to college they’ll still be successful just because of some of the qualities they have. It’s not just about working hard, but investing in yourself. I know this is kind of weird but I’ll get on YouTube every once in a while and I’ll listen to Jim Rohn, he’s a motivational speaker, just because he has good things to say. I think there are a lot of different factors for success. When we [the Council] went to the Opportunity Nation Summit, one of the speakers actually talked about the different factors of success. A lot of them were just about doing extracurricular activities and being active in your community. Just being active and looking for opportunities and not being afraid to ask for help when you need it or ask for information – those are all factors. Just being open in itself will create more opportunities. And that’s not just in college – having the mindset of not being afraid and not being discouraged will help propel you forward in whatever you want to do.

Why should we be particularly concerned about college accessibility right now? Do you think college is becoming less accessible?

Well you kind of just have to think about the economic factors right now. At the one end of the spectrum you have all these people saying there are no jobs and they can’t find a job. And then at the other end of the spectrum, the government is saying there are all kinds of jobs that need to be filled. So there are a lot of potential jobs opening up, but they all require some sort of skill. They may not require a four-year degree – you might just need some level of technical education – but it’s really hard now to just go into a new city and find a job. Maybe you can in certain places, but the job outlook isn’t real good right now. So the focus has been shifting more towards college.

The cost of living is going up, the cost of education has gone up dramatically. So there just aren’t a lot of resources. A lot of people are unemployed right now. Like I said before, my father, he’s unemployed. People who want to go to college are having to rely more on themselves, but it’s not just that – the cost of college keeps going up so it’s much more of an investment than it was 10 or 15 years ago. So just the way I see it, in general, it’s harder to find a job, there’s less money for your family to put in, and the overall cost of living and cost of college are going up, so a lot of people don’t want to invest in something if it’s not a for-sure thing. I have two friends who kind of want to go to college but they don’t really qualify for any financial aid so they don’t really want to potentially end up with a lot of debt and not come out with a degree that will guarantee that they get high-paying jobs that would feasibly allow them to pay off their loans. So just out of shear cost.

Also, there’s the cost of the technology that’s required for classes. If you go into anything science related you have to pay an extra fee for labs. So there are a lot of other costs that come with tuition – whether its books, or a computer. Honesty, a computer is almost mandatory now. It’s not technically mandatory, but you really do need a laptop for college. So that’s a huge cost right there. So there are a lot more barriers than just the tuition.

Tuition is one of the biggest barriers to college, don’t get me wrong, but there are a lot of other fees too. I almost feel like tuition is the number two barrier. This is just my personal thing, it’s not something the Council discussed, but I feel like number one is just your situation; your family circumstances just because maybe you don’t have a strong support network – everyone needs one of those to be successful because college is a huge commitment. You need to have a good support network. I just feel like your circumstances in general can be a barrier. 

How AmeriCorps helped Ladine Daniels find personal success

Sadly, Ladine "JR" Daniels passed away in his sleep in early November 2014. JR was a loved and respected member of the Corps community. He will be greatly missed. Click to read our tribute to JR.
 


Content below originally published in February 2013 
 

JR, formerly a Corpsmember with the Sustainability Institute, won Corpsmember of the Year in 2012 for his commitment to service and self improvement. Read below to find out what he's been up to since accepting his award, or find out more about JR and his Corps experience by reading his bio from our 2012 national conference.

Where does Ladine “JR” Daniels see himself in the future?

For starters, he plans to have his weatherization business, IMSEI (IM Southeastern Independence), off the ground within the next two years. He hopes his future is full of opportunities to learn new and better ways he can help people in his community save money and the environment. Unrelated to growing his business, his main goal is to become known in his community as someone who works to expand opportunities for youth.

“I want to become a mentor to kids who are heading down the path that I went down,” said JR. “I want to let them know that it’s not worth it.”

Earlier in his life, JR was convicted of a felony and served time in jail. He was content to accept his jail sentence so he could have a clear slate and start over again once he was released. However, after completing his sentence in 2009, JR realized that starting over again wasn’t so easy for a young man with a record.

With the help of his church in Charleston, South Carolina, JR connected with Pastor Larry Bratton, who at the time was in charge of a nonprofit called BDB (Breaking Down Barriers). BDB, which helps community members overcome barriers to employment or services, helped JR find his first stable job after his release. However, Larry Bratton left BDB to become the Social Justice Advocate for The Sustainability Institute; a Charleston-based nonprofit that offers weatherization services to local residents and trains young people to become home performance professionals. JR eventually joined The Sustainability Institute’s Energy Conservation Corps as an AmeriCorps member.

JR spent six months in the Energy Conservation Corps, gaining hands-on experience in home weatherization techniques. He was a standout Corpsmember from the beginning, offering guidance and friendship to younger Corpsmembers. His success led to a job offer from Carolina Green Energy Systems, an energy retrofit company in Charleston.  JR enjoyed his job with Carolina Green, but he was interested in starting his own weatherization business. He ended up leaving the company to avoid a conflict of interest.

As JR works with his partners to get IMSEI weatherization company up and running, he continues to work for the Sustainability Institute. He is currently a Crew Leader, but he will soon be hired as a fulltime Supervisor. On top of administrative duties, his main responsibility is to manage and organize crews. He trains Corpsmembers in weatherization techniques and helps run harassment training, OSHA safety training, and a financial literacy class.

On top of building his business and working at the Sustainability Institute, JR is also trying to reestablish Breaking Down Barriers, the organization that helped him find employment when he got out of jail.

"Our focus is not just youth, it’s for anyone who has any type of barrier. Like if you need help with painting your home but you’re not financially able to, that’s a barrier. If you’re a single mom and you need help finding a home, that’s a barrier. If you’re an ex-convict, that alone is a barrier,” said JR. “We want to provide training to whoever needs it, but we also to want to provide services. For instance, I might be hot off the street and I need a job. We’ll teach you how to paint. Then we have someone who needs their house painted but doesn’t have money to paint it. We can kill two birds with one stone.”

In addition to JR’s work schedule and his involvement with Breaking Down Barriers, he volunteers with the NAACP, ushers at his church, and helps out at a recreational park near the Sustainability Institute. He also serves with Philan Tree, a fellow 2012 Corpsmember of the Year, as a member of the National Council of Young Leaders. The Council, formed in July 2012 in response to a recommendation from the White House Council on Community Solutions, is comprised of low-income young adults from across the country.  JR helps represent the voice of young people who have been involved in the justice system.

“My whole thing with the justice system is that it’s pretty hard to find second chances, even when what you did was so long ago,” he said. “Why should something I did six years ago – knowing that I’m not the same man I used to be, knowing that a lot of things have changed over these years – why should that hold me back from finding a job that I’m totally qualified for?”

Through the National Council of Young Leaders, JR has met with such public figures as Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, and Ronnie Cho, the White House Liaison to Young Americans. JR is very grateful for his experience with the Sustainability Institute and AmeriCorps. Without these organizations he feels he would have never had so many opportunities and he would not be as successful as he is today.

“I’ve had all types of people calling who want to do an interview with me…from Charleston, from the Aspen Institute in New York, from people in DC – this is all because of AmeriCorps. I understand I had to put in hard work, but with the opportunities that AmeriCorps gave me it was easy for me to just fly with it,” said JR. “All of it has been a blessing to me. The way the Sustainability Institute gives me support and puts their trust in me, the way they fight for me is really amazing. Any type of help I need – like I needed an apartment. I was staying with my mom when I got out of jail in 2009 up until the fall of last year. They helped me find a place of my own. They meet all my needs. They’re not your average employers.”

It’s not just the people at The Sustainability Institute that JR appreciates; he is also grateful that his AmeriCorps experience exposed him to the weatherization business.

“I just love this work. The smile I put on a homeowners face when the electric bill comes and they’re saving a couple hundred dollars. Knowing that I had something to do with that is really powerful,” said JR. 

To young people thinking about joining a Corps, JR says:

“I think the thing I would need to tell them is to make sacrifices. Starting off, you won’t even make as much money as you’d make at McDonald’s, but the experience, the training, the career development that you get in AmeriCorps will pay off in the long run…I would tell someone trying to join that it’s one hundred percent worth it. I would show them the change it makes. I would take them to the neighborhoods that I used to hang out in and show them the people I used to hang around with and I’d even take them to jail and show them where they’re headed if they continue with the life they’re living now. Then I’d show how I’ve been able to improve. I’d show them all the awards, all the committees I’m on. With just a little time – not even two years – I’ve gotten my own place, I’ve been nominated to be on councils, I was a 2012 Corpsmember of the Year, I travel a lot and I don’t even have to pay a dime for it. I just think that AmeriCorps is a very good thing that made a huge difference in my life, and I think it could do the same thing for them, too."

 

 

 

National Council of Young Leaders


Members of the National Council of Young Leaders at the 2012 Opportunity Nation Summit

From YouthBuild USA

The National Council of Young Leaders is a 14-member body comprised of diverse young men and women from across the United States. These Council Members, who range in age from 18 to 34, provide information and insight to elected officials and policymakers on the issues that affect low-income and disconnected youth from their communities.

Because of their very different backgrounds, each Council Member offers a different and unique take on what services and policies are needed to improve opportunities for disconnected youth. The Council's Recommendations to Increase Opportunity and Decrease Poverty in America include policy prescriptions in the areas of education, criminal justice, community development and family. 

The Council was formed in July 2012 in response to a recommendation from the White House Council on Community Solutions, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Open Society Foundations. The founding partners of the National Council of Young Leaders are:

  • Jobs for the Future
  • Opportunity Nation
  • Public Allies
  • The Corps Network
  • Year Up
  • Youth Leadership Institute 
  • YouthBuild USA

Click here to read bios for each of the Council Members and get more information on the Council's founding partners.

The Corps Network is proud to be represented on the Council by 2012 Corpsmembers of the Year Ladine "JR" Daniels and Philandrian Tree.  

Click the links below to read more Corps Network stories on The National Council of Young Leaders: 

 

  

Philan Tree (left) and Ladine "JR'' Daniels (right) - 2012 Corpsmembers of the Year and members of the National Council of Young Leaders. Pictured at the 2012 Opportunity Nation Summit.

Corpsmembers of The Year Represent The Corps Network on New National Council of Young Leaders

 

The Corps Network is pleased to announce that 2012 Corpsmembers of the Year, Philan Tree of Coconino Rural Environment Corps and Ladine Daniels of Energy Conservation Corps/The Sustainability Institute have been appointed to the National Council of Young Leaders. This new Council made up of representatives from national youth-serving organizations is intended to be a permanent body that will advise the White House, Congress, philanthropists, business leaders, and other policymakers on issues affecting disadvantaged or "opportunity youth" and their communities. The next event for the Council will be participation in the Opportunity Nation Summit in Washington DC on September 19, 2012, where they will be leaders for young people from around the country (including several additional Corpsmembers).
More information about the Summit can be found here.

Dorothy Stoneman, founder and CEO of YouthBuild USA, Inc. (one of our partners in the National Council of Young Leaders) speaks to the role of youth-serving organizations in addressing challenges faced by Opportunity Youth in a recently published article on the Huffington Post called "Solutions are Obvious for a National Emergency".

Additional efforts are being worked on to advance the voice of young people. Read more in this posting by SparkAction.

National Council of Young Leaders to Launch at Opportunity Nation Summit

Next week The Corps Network and many of our members and allies will participate in the Opportunity Nation Summit. Among the activities will be a major meeting and gathering of leaders focused on creating opportunities for Americans, and in particular low-income youth and their communities. As part of this effort, a new National Congress of Young Leaders will launch, seeking to inform policymakers on a national level about the issues, challenges and --most importantly-- solutions that will help provide youth with a boost to achieve career and life success in America.

The Corps Network is proud that several of our most recent Corpsmembers of the Year, Philan Tree and Ladine "JR" Daniels, will be members of the National Council. We look forward to sharing with you all the fruits of their labors, as well as those other Corpsmembers and Corps staff members who are coming to join us in Washington D.C. as part of this collaborative summit.

You can learn more about the Summit by clicking here and also make plans to watch parts of it online. 

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