The story of Youth Education Coalition’s inception is one of impeccable timing. In 2019, student climate activists went to the MDCPS School Board requesting excused absences for students attending climate-change protests. The student activists were met with overwhelming indifference regarding their request. In fact, the president of United Teachers of Dade felt compelled to apologize on behalf of the school board’s meager response to the youth.
At that moment, Dewayne Martin, a high school student, asked himself how he could ensure that the youth would be taken seriously during future similar petitions. Coincidentally, three of the nine school board seats were up for a change of seat during the August 18, 2020, elections. Having one-third of the school board seats open is extremely unprecedented considering the school board position has no term limits. Martin decided, “It was the perfect opportunity for young people to step up and ensure that the next time we ask for the school board’s support, we are not met with apathy, but with elected officials who actually have the best interest of their students, teachers, and communities in mind.
As a result, Martin founded the Youth Education Coalition (YEC), a student-led organization that focuses on politics in education and is guided by its core values of awareness, action, and accountability. The Youth Education Coalition’s goals reflect the need for students to gain a seat at the table. They aim to host youth-led candidate forums, for the youth advisor to the school board to become a voting member of the school board, to create youth advisory councils in each committee of the school board, to have a youth liaison for each school board member, and for all school board members to conduct monthly fireside chats. The YEC has already completed their first goal by hosting massively successful Youth School Board Forums for districts 3, 5, and 9. Their efforts combined with that of several community partners reached almost 3,000 individuals.
Connecting and activating young people in Miami-Dade County has been a crucial component of the YEC. Martin explained, “We have so many talented and exciting young people that rarely get the opportunity to work together.” The YEC serves as a space that connects these students and allows them to realize that the issues that they face are not unique to their schools, and they can address these issues by collaborating and contributing their unique skills. YEC hosts Workshop Wednesdays for team members to be assisted by guests in developing skills ranging from meditation to organizing. They also host Coalition Fridays which are weekly events solely for members to socialize. Martin affirmed, “above all, we are a coalition, which means we bring people and organizations together,” and this shows in the way YEC operates.
For more information follow @youtheducationcoalition on Instagram.
Haz clic para leer en Español: Coalición por la Educación Juvenil: Los Jóvenes Lideran Conversaciones en la Política Local