Mayor Kenney’s Office of Education announced in July that Kensington Health Sciences Academy would be among the city’s first nine community schools, in an initiative to make the schools into neighborhood hubs for support services. That’s when Youth United for Change began a campaign to start a conversation about how services should be provided within marginalized areas and how community members can govern those services.
The campaign, called Community Control, aims to give neighborhood residents a voice and platform to determine their own course in the community schools initiative. Over six weeks this summer, YUC members surveyed about 100 residents and business owners in person about decision-making power in their community.
YUC executive director Rapheal Randall said that the goal was to “build relationships with the folks in [the] catchment area and to test out these demands … to see if this is what the community actually wants.”
The survey results, presented at an August community meeting, reflected YUC’s concerns about the unresponsive nature of schools to community needs. Although 79 percent of respondents reported a willingness to participate in community decision-making, only 32 percent felt empowered to do so.
YUC plans to press the District to give School Advisory Councils greater decision-making power and to do another canvassing effort about the community schools model at Kensington Health Sciences Academy.
Recruiting new members is another focus for the students in YUC.
The recruitment process allow to students to hone their leadership skills among their peers, Randall said.
Those skills, he said, are “necessary for them to go out and start organizing with and among adults.”
Sasha Melendez, a YUC youth leader and a junior at Kensington Creative & Performing Arts High School, said she hopes that during her last two years of high school, she will see progress toward the changes she and her YUC peers are working toward.
“[I want to] be able to say we have all worked together to change something.”