Community Engagement Program

Introduction 

The lower and middle-class population(s) in North America are currently in economic, political and social crises. Unfortunately, the majority of the population is not adequately responding to the pressing challenges of our time. Economically, extreme concentrations of wealth have gravitated towards the upper 1% of the population. Meanwhile, the middle-class continues to struggle as wages have stagnated, household debt has increased, higher education has become economically and socially exclusionary, unions have largely dissipated and overall social-mobility has eroded.

In this free-for-all capitalist landscape, the low and middle-class tax payers live pay-check to pay-check while higher-end citizens reap the fruits of working-class labor and political privileges. With the continual and progressive plight of the middle-class, it would be naive to suggest that voting is enough to thwart the corporate influences and special interests that control the political landscape and legislative decisions. The degradation of the middle-class equates to one simple fact: North Americans do not live in a democracy that is representative of the masses, but rather in a democracy that represents select wealthy, powerful and privileged groups.

The pseudo-democracy coupled with hyper-capitalism and a highly regulated and controlled media equates to a middle-class that is manipulated, economically debased and judicially subjugated. Moreover, this highly malleable citizenry is pushed through an education system that by and large functions to keep the power in the hands of the 1% while reproducing unequal socio-economic classes (Anyon, 1981). Scholastically, the majority of students in public-schools from medium to low-income are inclosed in educative systems that largely ignore the aforementioned economic and political realities, all while reinforcing oppressive and constricting curriculum. The education system has not only contributed to the plight of the middle-class, it has been instrumental in developing a population that has not strategically positioned itself to adequately shift economic and political power back to the masses. The majority of the citizenry, especially minorities have been deliberately pushed through a placid education system and continue to be manipulated and defrauded into thinking that they live in a democracy with each passing election. The program introduced herein is a counter measure and a movement to regain political power and economic equity for all citizen regardless of race, gender, class and/or ethnicity.

Program Overview Goals and Objectives

The program will be axed on educating students on the fundamental pillars of the education system, its purpose and how they (students) can make the system function in their favour. In addition, as the education system is not completely separate of social, economic and political realities, the students will become aware of existing socio-economic hierarchies and the inequity that exists both in education and society. It is essential for students to acquire a profound understanding of the political and economic dynamics of their environment. This program specifically targets students and indirectly educational stakeholders (parents, teacher, educational leaders).  The overall mission and goal of the program is: To extend political and economic understanding, along with the strategic comprehension of other societal dynamics (cultural, racial, social),  to act upon this information by, in part, attaining  value-added university degrees and unifying the participants through self-curated, self-directed organizations that work towards the continuous pursuit of  re-establishing wealth, power and privilege in the hands of highly connected and engaged citizens.

The program’s objectives are to re-educate/inform educational leaders, teachers and parents on how to guide, support and educate students on how to appropriate value-added university diplomas, thereby aiding students to a) become  competitive members of a current global economy b) awaken a politically unengaged demographic c) build a generation of students to spawn a population of citizenry that is interconnected and empowered to the extent that governments and corporate entities would be obliged to maintain equitable economic and political practices. Moreover, to guide, support and direct students towards value-added degrees i.e. Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Business, Finance, Law, Medicine etc; expose injustices in corporate education, unequal distribution of knowledge, lack of democracy in society; energize youth to form collective unifications to pursue various causes in conjunction/guidance with the program.

Target Audience

The content of the program will vary depending on the segment population in question. There are 3 segments that this program will target detailed herein.

Segment 1: University Students

The first segment detailed in this program targets university students ranging from 17-26 years old. The goals and objectives with this segment are manifold. Primarily to create a sustainable grassroots movement that works towards various causes ranging from exposing the corporatization of universities and the undemocratic and unequal distribution of knowledge in the education systems. What may drive a collective movement from this segment is that many have already traversed undemocratic and oppressive educational pathways. Once this group understands the economic, political and educational labyrinth they worked through only to be low-income earners with little to no political power or voice, a collective union may form. Moreover, these students, although somewhat late in their educational careers, may consider going into STEM, business, finance, economics law, or medicine – value-added diplomas. Students will be encouraged to equip themselves with the educational capital essential for economic prosperity. With the appropriate educational capital, students from all cultural economic backgrounds can expand the possibility of flowing up the socioeconomic hierarchy that is often impeded by poor education-based choices.

Segment 2: High School Students, Parents, Teacher, Principals

The second segment is a demographic mix of grade 7-12 students accompanied by their parents, principals and teachers. This segment is regrouped as such due to the fact that the program presentation will take place high-schools with the accord of the administrative leadership (principles), promoted by teachers and communicated to parents. It is essential that parents are involved as they are key drivers in further explaining/discussing the contents of the program with their youth and essential stakeholders in the current and future development of the students. It is important to note that students from grades 7-9 may not be able to relate to in the same way that grade 10-12 students may. It is thus the role of the parents to understand the content and guide their kids towards the objectives and goals of the program. As for teachers, this program is moreso a professional-development lecture. By in large, most if not all teachers have the role of disseminating informational content regardless of the political and economic realities of external societal dynamics. This program is thus an indirect professional development forum for teachers. It provides them with an opportunity to learn more about the political and economic dynamics of society and the importance of finding new strategies to empower their students beyond curriculum content.

Segment 3: Parents of Students KG – 6

For this segment the content of the program will be the same, however there will be additional emphasis on notions related to schooling through the lens of cognitive, personal, professional and overall development of students in low-tier educational environment(s) that impact learning, confidence, IQ, career choice, identity etc. Research based on texts such as Anyon, J. (1981) Social class and school knowledge will illustrate the latter in further detail. In this particular segment, the various stakeholders, teacher, educational administration and parents play the largest role as the students are the commencement of their educational journeys, cognitive development and highly dependent on the adults in their surroundings.

Program Format, Schedule and Staff

The program format is based on the participants, costs and context of the program itself. In regards to participants, most of them will be implicated in one way or another with the schools. Moreover, the aforementioned mission and objectives are centred around education making the schools/universities a milieu cohesive with the nature of the program. Additionally, schools are ideal settings as they are equipped with digital technology such  as overhead projectors, video/recording capabilities, lighting, microphones etc. The program will be in the form of a lecture with speakers. The amount and quality of the guest speakers will depend on the ability of the program leaders/organizers to build a solid relationship with stakeholders across various industries. As for staff, teachers, parents and volunteers, they will be crucial in assisting marketing, communication, fundraising  and the physical set up of materials. Unlike full day conferences with registration, meals, breaks etc. this program will be in the form of a crash-course in an auditorium that would last 90 minutes followed by 30 minutes for follow-up questions and discussion.

Marketing & Recruitment

Marketing will be done primarily by face-to-face communication starting with selling the program to principals and educational leaders. Without principles on board, the program simply cannot function. Once the program leader has established a working relationship with a principal and a date for the program, the teachers will be tasked with delivering the message to students and parents. This program can be seen as an extra-curricular activity that is cohesively integrated within the school’s agenda. The marketing challenges will be mitigated if the program is seen as simply a branch of the existing school activities. Once the program begins, students, parents and teachers will be asked to “like” the Facebook page, tweet and chat about the program, their thoughts, opinions, feedback and concerns during and after the presentations. Thus a grassroots marketing campaign will spread and drive the program’s visibility.  In regards to recruitment, the same applies, it will be done by going directly to high schools and university directors to pitch the program. One of the many selling points of this program is that it can be done in conjunction with career-services and academic advisors.

Budget

Income and expenses are vital to any project. This program is a incremental-based budget as fundraising, grants income and expenses will vary. Ideally, corporate, government and community-based support can sponsor much of the expenses, which include but are not limited to: rental fees, speaker compensation, marketing materials (logo, banners, informations pack), transportation.  Estimating costs will be difficult as the budget must take into consideration that the program’s success is based on collective community involvement. In its first year, the program will not be able to afford to pay for conference halls and speakers. With the expansion (distance of schools, growth of lectures), the program’s costs and complexity will significantly increase. For the purpose of this program and budget the following income and expenses will be based on the program at the initial stages.  It is important to note that the financial implications for this program are not excessive as the lectures will be held in schools with technological resources and equipment.

Intended Outcomes and Evaluation

The primary intended outcome of this program is for students to enter into value-added university programs. The evaluation of that outcome may be difficult as it make take years to get the final data. In consequence, the effectiveness of this program will be measured by evaluative surveys tailored for parents, teachers, students, principals etc. Thus the mission, goals, objectives, intended outcomes can be estimated both quantitatively and qualitatively thanks to the survey. Parents can be asked questions related to unequal distribution of knowledge in public vs private systems, their intentions to encourage their kids to pursue value-added fields, their views on economic and political privileges, etc. University students will be probed on questions related to their educational history, their current program and the possibility of changing into value-added programs. Moreover, university students will be asked questions directed towards their willingness to participate in activism related to the content. If micro-programs are generated from this program, that will be a tremendous step towards the unification of student bodies. The commencement of such an organization from a simple informative program would certainly meet the ambitious objective of the program. Once again, that process will take time. More so, evaluating that component will be difficult. As an initial step to this program, surveys will be used. As the program grows through financial gains, partnerships and scale, more complex forms of evaluation can take place.

References 

Anyon, J. (1981). Social class and school knowledge. Curriculum Inquiry, 11(1), 3-42.

Caffarella, R., & Ratcliff Daffron, S. (2002). Planning programs for adult learners (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.