Trei Dudley – Education Nation
A Boys and Girls Club survey found today’s youth don’t think their issues were addressed in the 2012 presidential election.
As President Obama prepares to deliver his State of the Union address, I am joining Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) to speak on behalf of an often forgotten segment of our population: young people just like me.
From poverty to obesity to the need for twenty-first century workplace skills, there are a lot of challenges facing America’s youth. As I’ve visited with Club members across the country in my role as BGCA’s National Youth of the Year, I hear the same message from my peers: Today’s young people think they will not be as successful as previous generations. And, worst of all, it feels like no one is listening to their concerns.
This feeling was confirmed by more than 1,000 teens who participated in a recent online survey conducted by BGCA. An unbelievable 8 out of 10 teens said the issues most important to them were not addressed in the 2012 presidential election.
The teens surveyed ranked getting a job, education, or college education as their biggest concern (61 percent). Also, and not surprising following recent headlines, teens reported youth violence as almost an equally important issue to them (60 percent).
I can relate. I remember how excited I was to graduate from high school, the first one in my family. But I worried about being able to afford college based on my mother’s income as a single-parent.
And even if today’s teens find the money to attend college, 40 percent of freshmen drop out because of academic, financial and personal hardships. For low-income families like mine, scholarships and financial aid made the difference. No aid, no education.
Teens are also concerned about violence. It’s really difficult to have hope for a great future when you don’t even feel safe going to school. And it’s deeply disturbing to watch innocent children and teens victimized by senseless violence almost every day.
BGCA is currently working with Vice President Joe Biden to identify strategies to help protect young people and prevent future acts of violence. This is an important start, but there is much more work to be done.
As President Obama said in his Inaugural Address, we – the young people – are America’s future and must be protected. Given my experience and the responses of surveyed teens, I am hopeful we will hear and actually see steps taken by our nation’s leaders to improve these conditions.
I was lucky. My Boys & Girls Club gave me the guidance and resources to help me go to college. I also had a helping hand from companies like our National Youth of the Year sponsor, Tupperware Brands, which provided a scholarship to help pay for my college education.
Sadly, there are far too many young people in America without the necessary support and guidance to overcome such challenges.
The overwhelming takeaway from our survey findings is today’s young people want a platform. They want a forum to ensure their needs, concerns and priorities are addressed by influential leaders willing to invest in America’s youth.
That’s why Boys & Girls Clubs teens nationwide are asking for a National Teen Advisory Committee to join the National Commission on Children, which was called for by Save the Children, BGCA and Harlem Children’s Zone, and other youth organizations.
We want kids, teens and adults from coast to coast to petition leaders on Capitol Hill to form a teen advisory group to provide an ongoing dialogue with America’s most valuable asset: its young people. Won’t you join me by signing our online petition at www.bgca.org/stateoftheyouth?
Trei Dudley is Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s National Youth of the Year – representing the 4 million youth served by the national organization. She is a freshman at the University of Arkansas, where she is studying business management.