Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Warming Up This Summer at the Elizabeth Edwards Foundation

This summer has been a time of great excitement and growth here at the Elizabeth Edwards Foundation as we prepare to welcome our first class of Elizabeth Fellows in the Fall! Many different facets of the Elizabeth Fellows program are coming together quickly, so we wanted to keep you up-to-date as the first year of our program kicks off. 

The beginning of the academic year will mark the start of the pilot Elizabeth Fellows program at Broughton High School in Raleigh, North Carolina.  We’ve been working with various educators at Broughton, who have each provided us a lot of support by recommending students who may be right for our program.  We are looking for bright students facing challenges who, with the right support, will reach their full academic potential, set and meet important personal goals, and mature into empowered leaders in their communities.

With the application packets now finalized, nominated students will receive them and choose to apply as part of a thorough process to be selected as an Elizabeth Fellow.  Applicants will be chosen based on a range of variables, including their responses to short and long essay questions as well as recommendations.  Once chosen, the students will start the program in early Fall and begin their exciting journey as Elizabeth Fellows.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Summer Months: Time for Learning Outside the Classroom

Summer is in full swing and students all across the country are trying their hand at various pursuits of their choosing.  It’s the time of year when high school and college students engage in activities to enrich their academic learning and pursue their interests. Summer experiences provide key opportunities to shape and identify one’s passions and interests for the future, while building their résumé.  

A meaningful summer experience can encompass many different activities.  A future writer can try interning for a newspaper to determine if he should pursue journalism as a career.  A skilled math student may take a summer introductory class to figure out if she wants to apply to college as an engineering major.

Though such academic pursuits are obviously important shaping experiences, kids can equally benefit from non-academic endeavors as well.  Student athletes on the brink of a college scholarship may attend sports camps to streamline their abilities and students interested in working abroad may immerse themselves in another country’s language and culture.  The important aspect of a summer experience the pursuit itself—it is anything that will help students move towards their goals and make a productive use of the long summer months.

The problem is that not all students can afford to spend the summer venturing out on their own.  Important responsibilities, such as making money for the school year or caring for family, often prevent ambitious students from pursuing their interests.  Because of restrictions outside of their control, students miss out on opportunities that their peers get to experience. 

For this reason, one component of the Elizabeth Fellows programs involves helping our students find a way to do something productive and enriching between their junior and senior years in high school.  Mentors will help the fellows decide what they would like to explore and make connections with summer opportunities that fit with the student’s obligations.  We want to empower students through summer opportunities that they may otherwise not be able to discover, because everyone deserves the chance to push themselves and discover who they are. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Role of Advocacy in Education

Advocacy is often thought of as a tool used by social innovators to attract attention to their cause.  Agents of change rely on advocacy techniques to make a difference, and advocating is most often associated with a public service or a cause. However, advocacy has a real role in the daily life of all students, and indeed, all people.
To advocate, or “to plead in favor of” according to Miriam Webster Dictionary, is necessary for any person to succeed in their academic, professional or personal endeavors.  To be an advocate requires many characteristics, including a thorough understanding of a cause or goal, a passion to succeed at that goal, and effective writing and verbal communication skills to benefit the promotion of the goal.

If you think about these characteristics outside of the world of social change, they resemble a set of tools necessary to succeed in everyday life.  Whether applying to college, interviewing for a job or presenting a proposal to their boss, people must advocate for themselves or their ideas.  Understanding, communication skills, and passion to achieve are all vital to success in every walk of life. 

To train students as advocates means giving them the ability and the drive to fight for something they believe in, whether that be their own education or a change within their community.  It means empowering students to take initiative and determine their own futures.

Those who advocate are those who lead. So in order to train tomorrow’s leaders, we must give them the tools to get there. Because before they lead others, they must first learn to advocate for themselves.