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The Real Obama Stands

Regarding Mike Males’ February column, “Will the Real Obama Please Stand Up – For Youth?”

I feel Mr. Males does not understand the difference between President Obama calling it like it is regarding the “state of youth” and expressing his feelings regarding the “state of youth.”

President Obama is not a bandwagon fan with regard to the action steps needed to meet the critical and evolving needs of youth. The jargon used by President Obama about “at-risk” youth is, unfortunately, the one global term that nearly every adult can understand. I feel our president is reaching out, using this jargon to stress the importance of how service and community will become our next generation’s saving grace. For those hard, authority-challenged youth, he must continue his momentum to be effective. He appeals to youth, because youth understand that Obama gets business done. Want things to be different? Get busy.

As a long-time, youth-serving professional for “at-risk” youth, I have been able to parlay our president’s message of change, tolerance, and unity into every aspect of the work I do with youth. They get it. Not only do they get it, they can get on board with it.

Simone K. Snyder
KYDNET Youth Development
Greater Kalamazoo United Way



Youth Work and the New Ed Chief

Regarding comments by Dan Bassill in the February story, “New Education Chief Raises Hopes.”

I differ with Daniel Bassill’s use of the word “education-centric” in this context because I believe that education has to be at the center of low-income kids’ efforts to join the social and economic mainstream. Nonetheless, his characterization of [Education] Secretary Duncan’s view of community-school collaboration is cause for some concern to me.

I often worry that those involved with the community schools programs tend to have too narrow a view of the ways in which schools and the communities in which they’re located can collaborate. There is much to be said for working with kids in all the places in which they live their lives – at home, at school and, as they get older, at work – and we have found that bringing the adults from those spheres together in support of “our” kids can have a substantial impact.

It’s important that we all encourage Secretary Duncan to look beyond simple expansion of what’s offered by the schools and in school buildings, to be open to the ways in which community-based organizations can coordinate with, complement and reinforce what goes on in school.

Steven Swanger
Director of Residential Services
Cambridge Housing Authority

How a Regional Network Stays Strong

Regarding the February story, “Regional Networks Get Disconnected.”

NEN [New England Network for Child, Youth & Family Services ] has always had a broader mandate than providing assistance to RHY [runaway and homeless youth] programs. Many years before the Family and Youth Services Bureau’s decision to consolidate technical assistance services in one national provider, we had diversified our membership and funding base. Several other networks had done the same, and these are the networks that are still in business and doing relatively well.

NEN is unique among the networks in one way: in addition to providing professional development services, we also conduct original research, and in the past eight years have produced and disseminated numerous studies of relevance to the field. Because of this and our recent intensive work with community coalitions, last year we worked with more agencies, and more types of agencies, than ever. The bottom line is that despite the loss of FYSB funding, we’re doing fine.

Melanie Goodman
Executive Director
New England Network for Child, Youth & Family Services
Charlotte, Vt.