Today, at the New Schools Venture Fund Summit (where you can watch the livestream of the entire conference), the group of more than 1,000 attendees are taking the day to challenge themselves to explore new ways to make the major steps towards equity for our country’s students. Forty percent of the people here are attending for the first time, bringing new, fresh, provocative energy to transforming education. Participants share a deep commitment to holding high expectations for all students and work to raise the bar and advance equity.

So many students just need to be heard. We need to understand what so many young people are struggling against. If we don’t really listen and recognize their resilience, we won’t be able to change the conversation. Reba Dominski, of Target announced the release of the new report video that brings together and amplifies the diverse voices from the community- Don’t call them Dropouts, that will premiere on May 20th- at the height of graduation season.

Poverty, Race and Education Equity. For Bryan Stevenson, growing up in the segregated south, education became meaningful and transformative when Brown vs Education passed and he had the opportunity to go to the school of his choice. Stevenson’s speech was by far one of the most powerful our team has ever seen. He spoke from behind a podium with no notes, no presentation and engaged the audience by painting a picture for us of all the stories he told.

Stevenson became a lawyer in a world that is very different than the world we lived in just 50 years ago. In our world today, there is a hopelessness that has been created by the huge number of people who are now incarcerated and has created a huge caste of “untouchables” that are so far out on the margins of society that we almost don’t even know how to help them. By engaging in this very mission driven work with inmates on death row Stevenson was transformed by working with these prisoners. Stevenson works everyday to help children that are already trapped in our prison systems.

Through this powerful work, Stevenson recognizes that our society has allowed it become acceptable to think some kids are disposable- some children are not worth saving. With amazing experiences and the stories he could share, Stevenson illustrated the 4 essential points for transformative work in education and the community:

  1. Proximity is essential to understand the problem and make effective decision.

  2. Change the narrative– change the way we talk about racial history and racial injustice.

  3. We must be and stay hopeful.

  4. Commit ourselves to do things that are uncomfortable.

Stevenson recognizes that he is broken and we are all broken but we are always better than our most broken action. His beautiful stories have kicked off today’s #NSVFsummit with the perfect mindset to be brave and create this new world that we want to see- for all students.

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