Dear Secretary Cardona- Open Letter From Detroit Students
Dear Secretary Cardona,
We are the youth members of 482Forward, a Detroit-based education grassroots advocacy nonprofit. As a youth organizing collective for the past 5 years , we focused on reshaping the negative narratives of Detroit schools through systemic change and school accountability. Comprised of students, parents, community members, and educators, 482Forward emphasizes that those most impacted by problems should help create the solution. We are writing to you today to invite you to collaborate with us and give you an image of our reality.
Our education reality is one of broken desks and substitute, uncertified teachers. A reality of graffitied, shutdown schools and mold infestations. We live with the existence of metal detectors, school police and the lack of social workers and mental health counselors. Over the past 15 years, over 200 schools in Detroit have been closed. This was in part due to the aggressive lobbying done by the former Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos and the Great Lakes Education Project. Left stranded by the system meant to educate us, Black and Brown students have been forced to accept less than the bare minimum in schooling. Recognizing this injustice, 482Forward and the Michigan Education Justice Coalition stepped in.
However, stepping in should have not been our only option to have a quality education.. It is not the responsibility of community members to pick up the slack of lawmakers and lobbyists who prioritize billionaires over babies. While we have done incredible work in the past, and will continue to do so, we are asking for federal cooperation and support in our cause.
Since the formation of the youth collective, we’ve surveyed over 3,000 community members on the most prominent issues in our schools and what we would like to see changed. We have helped elect school board members that best represent our needs, we have prevented the closing of 24 Detroit schools with Partnership Agreements in 2017, and we have centered our voice - the students - in our organizing. Consistently, we saw a need for student voice and accountability from the local, state, and federal government. Now, we are recognizing that in order to create generational and systemic change, we need the support of leaders in Washington D.C. We urge you to accept our following requests:
In your nomination remarks, you said that “we gain strength for joining together.” Now, more than ever, unity is essential to our success. For too long we have been positioned to be vulnerable, educationally disenfranchised, and ignored; we want you to know, Dr. Cardona, that we are powerful, passionate, and brilliant youth organizers. We ask that you join us in our fight for quality and equitable public education and prove that not only is systemic educational change possible, but vital to the success of our country. It is your responsibility to be a part of leading this change.
The 482Forward Youth Organizing Collective
North East Action Team
Detroit Heals Detroit
Congress of Communities