Southern Education Foundation Reflection and Artifacts

What was the SEF trip and experience? First and foremost, our youth leaders and mentors literally got a front row seat to hear, see, and participate in the dialogues that equity thought leaders are engaging in as they and we tackle, problematize, and protect public education in this country. Much of the research, scholarship, and testimony we heard responded to these unusual political times our country is facing and the persistent issues that prevent equity from being extended to all of America’s children. In the first picture below, you’ll see Melissa Harris-Perry leading a discussion with Ford Foundation president, Darren Walker. Darren followed the opening words of Fred Frelow, the president of the Southern Education Foundation and the one responsible for bringing our groups, fully funded, to Atlanta for this 150th year celebration of the Southern Education Foundation. These introductory speeches and opening remarks set the collaborative tone of the two day symposium, and helped frame the conversation about reimagining education as social justice.

The sessions were passionately delivered, and invited audience members to engage, reflect, challenge, and offer insight and experience. Topics ranged from Black experience in K-12, policy impact on K-12 and the school to prison pipeline and what must be done to disrupt it. Nikole Hannah-Jones‘, staff writer for the New York Times Magazine and MacArthur Genius Award Recipient, research and presentation were utterly dynamic and compelling and whose words have stuck with me. Her speech focused on the unrealized promise of Brown v. Board, and called us to action to reinvestigate and reinvigorate our commitment to Brown’s legacy. At the end of her speech, NGLN students approached her and engaged in further dialog about her work, her research, and her commitment to change at the K-12 level. On another occasion, Melissa Harris-Perry invited NGLN youth to pose questions to the panelists, and to talk about what their experiences have been in school settings.

On Tuesday night, after a full day of the symposium and a tour of the Center for Civil and Human Rights in the heart of Atlanta, GA, all of our youth from Kentucky, South Carolina, and Georgia gathered at Dean Royster’s office at Georgia Tech, and practiced their presentation for the next afternoon. Students collaborated, gave each other feedback, shared stories and experiences, and generally  basked in each other’s light. This engagement was filmed by Georgia Tech faculty and NGLN Atlanta mentor John Thornton.

The NGLN student presentation speaks for itself. Links to additional photographs and videos of student presentation can be seen here. It was interesting to have the youth leaders speak at the end of the two day symposium after hearing from many of the speakers how important it was to make way for youth leaders and to help elevate their voices. The audience members asked urgent questions and viewed the youth panelists as informed participants in the project of reimagining education as social justice. Robbie made a compelling point as the session closed by telling the audience members to understand that while our network is called the Next Generation Youth Leadership Network, we shouldn’t feel as if the next generation is somewhere far into the future. Rather, the next generation is here, evidenced by the presence of NGLN youth leaders, and their ideas potent and actionable today.

The agenda for the 2 day symposium can be seen here.

The agenda for the NGLN panel can be seen here.

The South Carolina Aiken Powerpoint Presentation can be seen here.


Lillian Reeves

2 Responses to “Southern Education Foundation Reflection and Artifacts

  • Lou Bernieri
    5 years ago

    Thanks for posting this, Lil. What a fascinating experience for your youth!

    This isn’t necessarily something you need to answer, but can we think of the structure of the project as a model for other NGLN sites? What can we learn from HOW the youth did what they did? Talk about access!

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