Maya Harris, Building (l) Brian Johnson (r).
By Arri & Byler Henry of Generation Next
Over 1000 attendees, representing various progressive programs and agencies in Broward, gathered to celebrate the success of their collective work in improving the overall quality of life for all children in the county and to strategically plan how they can continue to work together to close gaps plaguing our youth.
A few noteworthy accomplishments highlighted at the summit include:
- A decline in youth arrests from 13,467 (1998-99) to less than 5,000 in 2015-16
- Teenage pregnancy rates have decreased from 41.6% to 16.4%
- Youth alcohol use has dropped to 31% from 44% in the past few years
- In the past 10 years, high school graduations rates have improved to 78.7% from 60%
Sue Gallagher, Chief Innovation Officer of Children’s Services of Broward, admits that there is still a lot to do despite these positive changes. “We still see evidence of the legacy of Jim Crow in Broward County,” she reveals to the crowd with images of racial discrimination projected on screens overhead. A map of the county showing highly concentrated minority communities and socio-economic inequality displayed as well.
“Black children are being re-moved from the home at a higher rate than white children and Black youth are being arrested 5x more than white youths,” she adds.
Attendees were encouraged to work on finding the reasons for these disparities and to provide opportunities so that every child (regardless of race) has a fair and equitable opportunity to success.
Deeper Dive Conversations, allowed the large group to break up into several sessions during the summit. Middle and high school students kicked off each conversation with a 20-minute debate with topics like Restorative Justice, Urban Agriculture and Quality Child Care. Brian Johnson, CEO of the Minority Builder’s Coalition, moderated a high-energy Free Tuition debate with Cypress Bay High School’s Maeghanan Fitzgerald and Sharan Sawlani against an impressive middle school pair, Preston Lloyd & Nicole Vayman of Falcon Cove. Johnson highlighted post-secondary pathways to better prepare young people during their transition into adulthood. “My mother prepared me at 17-years-old to be a responsible adult by counting down the days until my 18th birthday.”
A major highlight of the day was the address given by keynote speaker, Maya L. Harris, a civil-rights lawyer and one of Hillary Clinton’s senior policy advisors. “Presidents come and go. Congress and other officials will change with elections, but it’s the dedicated individuals who are on the ground and doing this daily that makes the difference in the lives of our children,” Harris states as she commends the hard-working men and women who made up the audience of children and family advocates.