Shanell McCoy, 19, and Paris Carruthers, 22, are emerging Twin
Cities leaders who have been researching what youth actually think
about their education system and an adult society that constantly
worries about the achievement gap but too seldom listens carefully
to those on the other side of the gap.
"The conversation gets complicated, but people are overthinking
this,'' says McCoy. "I think it's as simple as communication,
listening, and more and better personal relationships with caring
adults. Too many decisions, about us, are made without us.''
"The school system is so rushed -- to teach something you will
remember for a test and then forget -- that there's no time for
relationships,'' adds Carruthers. She adds: "The people on the hill
(her term for the educational and social establishment) keep saying
it's a problem and sometimes only make it worse.''
Their insights come from facilitating meetings this summer with
older teens and youth for the Generation Next initiative, a
promising new comprehensive partnership focused on improving student
success broadly across the Twin Cities, complementing efforts
already under way in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods.
A collective action model
Generation Next is building a detailed cradle-to-career "road
map'' by bringing together students and parents, as well as
education, community, philanthropic, government and business leaders
to identify and adopt successful programs that are proven to work.
This collective action model, now being adopted in many metropolitan
areas across the nation, as well as rural communities in Minnesota,
activates a powerful network of people committed to reaching well-
McCoy and Carruthers were involved in helping one of several
"action networks" focused on Early Literacy and College and Career
Readiness. With the help of professional facilitators, dozens of
action network members in Minneapolis and St. Paul will establish
charters and action plans focused on closing gaps in those key areas
- in ways that have demonstrated their effectiveness.
"The action networks are where grassroots community members take
ownership of identifying solutions for the achievement gap," says
Frank Forsberg, an executive with Greater Twin Cities United Way who
helped launch Generation Next and is currently serving as the
group's executive director. "Their intimate knowledge of their
communities will be a key to understanding how we can change the
dynamic that currently keeps so many students from reaching their
McCoy and Carruthers are budding change agents at the same time
they are trying to navigate a complex higher-ed system and a career
launch for themselves. They both work part-time for Youthprise, a
creative nonprofit that seeks to innovate and improve the quality of
youth development outside the classroom.
Their savvy on the subject also comes from their real lives in
the most diverse Twin Cities neighborhoods, urban and suburban.
McCoy is from Brooklyn Park, a suburb with a high and growing
percentage of minority students, and Carruthers has lived all over
the Twin Cities, in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and both northern and
southern suburbs. McCoy is interested in a marketing career and is
a student at Minneapolis Community and Technical College;
Carruthers is pursuing accounting, and returning this fall to St.
Learners thrive when they connect with others
The summary of youth input for Generation Next swirls around the
word "personal relationships'' and a more holistic approach to
student success and human development. …