In the spirit of National Poetry Month (April), and in an effort to encourage literary exploration by young people held in juvenile facilities, we hosted a month-long poetry initiative that culminated in a national competition. More than 1,000 participants in Words Unlocked submitted entries. Their poems offer a candid, revealing glimpse of what the authors have experienced and are experiencing—at home, in the streets, in detention centers. Through poetry, these young people have shared their hopes and dreams, their fears, anger, and regrets. Click here to learn more about the winners and to download this year’s Words Unlocked Anthology as an iBook.
We support state agencies in providing youth with college-level courses, career readiness, job training, and placement. Older teens who are locked up and have earned a diploma or GED need opportunities to advance their skills and training; we don’t want them learning out-of-date skills or missing the chance to address their academic and behavioral deficits.
This year, we are honored to launch our first annual Lighting the Fire Teacher and School Leader Awards. Just one teacher has the power to alter the trajectory of a student’s life and the work of these teachers is proof of that. Many before them might have given up on these students, but they have seen opportunity in optimism and shared effort. They inspire their students to dream big, challenge them to work hard, and support their journeys – even when the path is daunting. These teachers have more than earned this award and we are confident that their influence will continue as their students and colleagues have been forever changed by their work. Click to see the winners!
A key area of our work involves increasing the capacity of principals and teachers to become change agents inside secure facilities. The young people in these facilities are among our nation’s most vulnerable teens. They are overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately youth of color; more than 50% have special needs, and the majority have either dropped out or been kicked out of school at least once.