By Angela Ly
“The whole concept began when I started analyzing not just the students but the community itself and how the impact of behavior can cause people to have a different outlook and perspective on neighborhoods and communities,” said Founding Executive Director Adrian McConnell. “I also began to consider ways that we can help students live out healthy character so they can bring transformation to their own neighborhood and community.”
Youth Revive is a nonprofit organization that partners with local Dallas schools with a sole mission to close the civic empowerment gap that exists in low-income communities. The very roots of Youth Revive stemmed from years of involvement in other nonprofits and McConnell’s experience as a youth pastor near a high school for a number of years.
Based on his own personal experience and observations, he’s felt the need to bring awareness of the disparity that exists between civic and character education being provided in schools on behalf of Black and brown students. Part of Youth Revive’s mission is to close the civic empowerment gap, the disparity that exists between low-income and higher-income communities that help youth build character, skills and knowledge on how to tackle community needs.
“There is a high need for schools, primarily in North Texas that are in low-income communities to have a higher sense of involvement and attention toward character and civic education,” he said. “Students that are in more healthier, wealthier communities and neighborhoods and cities are receiving much more attention on civic education than students that are in lower income communities.”
Youth Revive’s Ignite Me program aims to combat such discrepancy by providing a 12-week civics curriculum that occurs during the school day in actual classrooms. Students identify and analyze community issues through months of extensive research, all while developing a course of action they’ll present at Community Action Project Day, also known as C.A.P. Day.
“In times past, it’s been very much like a science fair. Students will create a trifold board and they’ll have their issue, their research behind the issue.” he said. “They’ll also have their solution, they’ll identify their main root cause, stakeholders, decision makers and assets they believe will help them bring a solution to that issue.”
Needless to say, C.A.P. Day looked much different this year due to the pandemic, but this did little to thwart the organization’s efforts to showcase their students’ projects. On March 11, they kicked off C.A.P. Day over Zoom with top 40 music and a video tribute of special shoutouts to students from teachers. Students and judges were then transferred to their breakout sessions, providing a more intimate space for students to present their projects.
Some topics included gender equality, social injustice and child neglect, all pressing issues in their own communities, and for some, their own lives. Students generated their own creative solutions, like hosting a Zoom party to encourage discussions on difficult topics or conducting a study with 100 families in public schools, while judges offered feedback and guidance on how to make their thoughts into reality.
While C.A.P. Day served as a day of celebration, marking the months of research and development of their community plans through their Ignite Me curriculum, McConnell noted other ways people can get involved, even if it’s from a distance.
Those interested in volunteering can join one of six different committees , one of which involves researching the reason behind the existing civic empowerment gap. Another volunteer opportunity is to be a mentor for their Ignite Me program where “a mentor can be in another state and still connect with one of our students.”
“Someone can get engaged and involved if they have an interest in volunteering by way of mentorship. I would say that’s one of the coolest ways that an adult volunteer can get engaged and involved in the life of one of our students that have been part of the program.”
This mentorship is still behind shaped and honed in, but McConnell expressed the possibility of having mentors post videos on college or career readiness where students can post questions and interact with mentors online.
Civic Saturday is another opportunity being offered to the public. It is a faith-based gathering welcoming community members on Saturday mornings to a civic sermon or a discussion on how to be responsible citizens.
“It’s a set focus on why people should be civically involved and civically engaged in their community. What does it mean to be civically responsible and as an individual? What does it mean for you to fulfill your civic duties?,” he said.
Civic scriptures, music and poetry can be seen with each Civic Saturday gathering, now occurring virtually due to the pandemic. The next Civic Saturday will be held on May 15th at 2 pm. C.A.P. Day is June 3rd from 10 am – 12 pm. Previous Civic Saturday streams can be found here.