Armchair advocacy can produce Results...

I had the unique pleasure to meet with Mark Shriver of Save the Children for a second time this past April. During a keynote at the third annual Mom Congress he pointed out that when his father started the Peace Corp he envisioned that it would be a temporary program, because the goal was to eliminate poverty within a specific time frame. As Shriver then pointed out, we as a nation are still working towards that goal. The temporary has become permanent.

Reading "A Good Man" by Mark Shriver about his father

Recently Huffington Post contributors Joy Resmovits and Saki Knfao wrote in their article Homeless Students Top 1 Million, U.S. Says, Leaving Advocates 'Horrified' that "The U.S. Education Department reported that, for the first time, the number of homeless students in America topped one million by the end of the 2010-2011 school year. These kids live in shelters and on the streets, and increasingly in hotels and on the couches of friends and relatives." In fact, for many of us who volunteer and work in our schools, the numbers of homeless children are perhaps even higher, as many families don't report their circumstance or apply for the type of assistance that is available. Here in Louisville our school system reports that approximately 10% of the 100,500 students enrolled are identified as homeless. Only 10%? Certainly, sadly, due to economic circumstance those numbers are higher. But whether 10% or 20% or even 30% the fact remains the same: "In Kentucky, the number of homeless students increased by 47 percent over one year."

Homelessness and poverty are tangible barriers to education, whether k-12 or higher educational opportunities.  Sam Bracken writes in Removing the Barriers to Higher Education for Homeless and Foster Youth that "Homeless teens and those in foster care rarely graduate on time from high school, because their high school transcripts get so fouled up from being moved so often" and "[a]mong youth in foster care nationally, fewer than 50 percent graduate high school. The rate among homeless teens hasn't been measured, but I suspect it's worse than that. Yet a recent survey showed that 90 percent of all jobs now require a high school diploma or GED."  

I spend a great deal of time focusing on how do we make excellent educational opportunities available to ALL students in our communities (whether urban, suburban, or rural) and how those opportunities need to be supported by the community (the "stakeholders") in order to create a sustainable (livable) community for ALL. So often in the discussion of "ed-reform" we (and I include myself in this) get caught up in the "right" or "wrong" definitions that accompany rhetoric. Simply put, everyone wants to be the star of the show and no one wants to be painting the scenery. 

But this wasn't actually intended to focus just on how we need to be respectfully collaborating together in order to shift the mission/vision of public education in order to better assist and represent all our students and their families (although I have certainly written about that often enough). The purpose of this was to focus on what we can do as armchair advocates to focus the conversation on how we will address these issues (poverty and homelessness) in our communities, and groups that need our voices added to their choir. 

In just two weeks advocates from all over the united states and the world will be coming together in DC for the RESULTS 2012 International Conference. These leaders will attend workshops and walk the Hill, taking messages to elected officials about how we need to address  issues of poverty, homelessness, health care, in a more effective PRO-ACTIVE way, rather than leaving the crisis to grow for the next group of elected leaders to address. I can't be at the conference in person. However representative from Louisville will be and I will be handing them a letter to take to our Representatives, Senators, and Congressman, on my behalf.  In fact, Louisville RESULTS advocate Frank Gilbert wrote a great op-ed that appeared in our local paper, "Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday," in support of the USAID 5th Birthday Campaign. As Mr. Gilbert says "Each year, over 7 million children die before their 5th birthday, succumbing to largely preventable diseases the rest of us rarely have to worry about. At a time when most parents are preparing their children for kindergarten, parents in developing countries are mourning the loss of theirs." But these loses are not just global, as we know children in our own nation are facing health care and other crisis that while may not cause death, are impacting their ability to thrive beyond survival. 

Every child deserves a shot at drawing their world in chalk on the sidewalk

Because being an advocate sometimes means you don't have to leave your armchair. If you have 5 minutes you can send 5 emails or make 5 phone calls.  Or write a letter to the editor as Mr. Gilbert did. Sign a pledge, post a tweet, or link something from facebook. Simply put. You can help raise awareness. And is often the case with organizations such as Save the Children, RESULTS, First Focus, and even Shot@Life (which I am also an advocate for) they provide the tools/templates from which those messages can be sent. As creative as I think I am, it is much easier to add my "signature" to an already well crafted letter than write my own. But I would also emphasize that YOUR voice is what matters and can make a difference. Use those letters as a guideline then add your own story. Bottom line? While we all can't always be in the physical march that takes place in DC (or even to our own capitol), we can do our part to support the efforts of those that are there. 

One of the main points about travelling is to develop in us a feeling of solidarity, of that oneness without which no better world is possible. 
Ella Maillart

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