482Forward is a collective of neighborhood organizations, parents, and students who attend Detroit charter and public schools. 482 is the prefix for zip codes in Wayne County, populated by many ethnicities, languages, religions, etc.
This citywide network functions more like “a family” which deserves special attention. Why? Because community activists as well as parent organizations are not always successful in building a coalition that also includes the primary stakeholders–students themselves.
The structure provides some clues about this effective intergenerational engine for education justice. Each member organization has a youth organizing hub and an adult ally. These student reps form the 482Forward Youth Collective which has the advantage of students working more autonomously on issues they deem most important and also, students can determine their own pace which can pose a conflict if adults are moving too slowly or perhaps too fast.
Ongoing Adult Openness
The Youth Organizing Director describes this enlightened adult mindset.
This attentiveness to 482Forward student leaders was evident following the murder of George Floyd. While some adults wanted to take to the streets, the youth wanted to protest the school-to-prison pipeline that overwhelmingly impacts black and brown students inside their own schools. What began to emerge was the idea of a campaign to defund the Detroit Public Schools’s own Police Department which includes security officers, private security, cameras, alarms, metal detectors, etc. and to reallocate this $33 million policing budget for mental health, including to trauma-trained staff.
Intergenerational Research in Action
In keeping with 482Forward deliberative process for developing a long-term strategy, a research team was composed mainly of students from the 482Forward Youth Organizing Collective along with two adult allies.
- Survey – Youth developed questions to gauge both students’ and parents’ views. (COVID and the prospective reopening of schools, mental health support during virtual learning, safety in schools, interactions with school police officers, and what an improved school experience would look like).
- Focus Groups – 800 participated in youth-led listening sessions or completed the survey over two months.
- Data Analysis – Together the youth and adult team conducted a thematic analysis of the qualitative data and disaggregated it from the quantitative data to see detect overlaps in responses from the survey and listening sessions.
The data generated specific Invest/Divest demands including using the school police budget for more counselors, social workers, nurses, de-escalation training, restorative justice, conflict resolution training, etc. At this juncture, students, supported by parents and community supporters, organized protests at the Board of Education and Superintendent’s Office.
One concrete win is the Detroit Board of Education agreed to create a Police Oversight Committee to investigate public complaints about its Police Department and officers. This interim decision strengthens the resolve of the Invest/Divest organizers and this intergenerational teamwork.
– Dillon Cathro, 482Forward Director of Youth Organizing
Another success factor to note is this very diverse coalition makes certain its budget has the funds to compensate the student leaders for their time.
Can you recommend other organizations like 482Forward that we can profile and highlight the secrets and structures that produce genuine youth-adult collaboration?