Lessons From the First Kid Community Organizers

A no-nonsense group of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders has transformed “the most depressing park in America” into a kid-friendly community mecca. No small accomplishment since it’s located in what has been considered one of the roughest U.S. cities: Camden, New Jersey.

The short history of the Student Leaders’ Von Nieda Park Task Force is in my last post. What you’ll see here are the secrets of their success.

The kids who may be the first-ever middle-school community organizers were in Washington, D.C. recently to visit their congressional delegation. They also shared with students from a multi-cultural Catholic parish in Silver Spring, Maryland, the Task Force formula for action:

Identify an issue in the community. It should be:

  • Important
  • Challenging
  • Doable

Decide what changes to make, and research who has the power to make them possible.

Invite those people, and prepare for the meeting.

Be on time, be firm, be polite, and be prepared for anything that happens.

Hold the officials accountable, and thank them or challenge them at the next meeting.

Celebrate our success!

I asked two of the students why they joined the SLVNPTF:

Rodrigo

“I was born and raised in Camden and there was a lot of violence going on and I wanted to change that. So, when I heard what this group does, I wanted to get involved.”

Sebastien, a member of the Student Leaders' Von Nieda Park Task Force

“It’s fun. You make a difference in peoples’ lives. It’s a great feeling.”

Of all they’ve accomplished, kids on the task force say “the biggest change is in us,” reporting they now have:

Confidence to speak in public

Confidence to meet with public officials

Confidence to chair meetings

Confidence to invite The White House (to a Martin Luther King day organizing event)

Confidence to lead the way!

Armed with skills that have made them and their communities more durable, members of the SLVNPTF are not resting on their laurels. From the minutes of their latest meeting:

[Student Leader] Noreidi asked [public official] Mr. Moran, who wasn’t able to be present, if he could get the pot holes in the park near the mural fixed. She mentioned that it is a matter of safety, and that many kids, including herself have been tripping on them when playing in the field. Mr. Wolick [Camden County Parks Supervisor] asked for clarification as to where the potholes were located and said he’d be glad to bring in some soil to fill them in. Noreidi thanked him.

Author’s note: The Durable Human Manifesto inspires kids as well as adults to capitalize, like the Task Force does, on their curiosity, intuition, ingenuity and other human-only assets.

DOWNLOAD THE MANIFESTO HERE FOR FREE!  Also available as an Audiobook.

NEW:  the Manifesto’s sequel: How To Be a Durable Human: Revive and Thrive in the Digital Age Through the Power of Self-Design. Packed with practical advice for keeping yourself in balance and your tech in perspective.

Learn more about the author on Google+.

One thought on “Lessons From the First Kid Community Organizers

  1. Thanks, JJ, for the excellent post. So direct and clear! You really understand the passion behind these students. Thanks, again, for coming to the presentation. It was wonderful to meet you and I’m sure we’ll all connect again. You’re a gift!
    Also, for all those who are inspired by the Student Leaders, we are having an online fundraiser to keep the group alive. Please help this positive, powerful movement last for future students. Here’s a link for the fundraiser: http://www.gofundme.com/slvnptf Any amount is appreciated. We especially invite people to contribute or help any non-profit or good cause on Giving Tuesday, Dec. 2nd. You’re never too young! Thanks, JJ!

    Grace K., Co-Mentor – Student Leaders

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