Reflecting on YCLA Civic Engagement

Youth Connection Leadership Academy (YCLA) has committed to actively transform the narrative of our students through education to reflect a more accurate and historically honest perspective of past and current realities. We are vigilant to prevent the distortion of students’ histories and identities through the voices of oppression that do not protect the authentic social well-being of all peoples.

At YCLA, we have taken advantage of the Youth Connection Charter School (YCCS) Civic Engagement Challenge to explore, investigate, and study social justice and civic engagement issues that affect our students. This year, the YCLA civic engagement team focused on the closing of neighborhood schools in Englewood. They prepared a plan of execution, vetted the idea with the student body and school leaders, and came up with various steps to take action. At the community level, they conducted interviews, took pictures of the neighborhood conditions, and then postulated multiple questions to determine methods of intervention and education. The primary issue at the heart of our exploration was why the schools were closing. Students persisted by disseminating their research on the historical truth and political justifications about school closings to neighborhood residents. For instance, did you know that a school can’t be closed and reopened without being evaluated for maintenance costs? If the maintenance cost is less than closing the building, the school funds must be used for upkeep and to repair whatever is needed.

This project gave students, and me, the opportunity to establish relationships within the school and community that transcended all expectations. We learned more about ourselves as partners with the school community. We enjoyed learning and grew to understand when we work together, how we create the realities of educational progress and community building.

Dr. Ernest Gonzalez

YCLA Civic Engagement Campus Leader