As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination here in Memphis, we are taking a step back to ask ourselves what has changed and how we can influence lasting change on behalf of our youth. Launched in 2017, Momentum Memphis is a campaign built to unite the community in taking action to promote youth opportunity and success through education. We are pleased to have your interest in education advocacy and hope you will continue to support our efforts to make quality education a community-wide focus. Taking stock of where we are in the education landscape and how our students are impacted, we have identified four student-centered areas of opportunity for change and focus points for our work:
Graduation Success for College & Career Readiness
“Graduation success” means not only that students graduate from high school but that, when they do so, they are fully prepared with the literacy, critical and effective thinking skills, and aspirations to enter postsecondary education or a career. Shelby County Schools (SCS) currently has a 79.6% graduation rate and only 11% of SCS students meet all four ACT college-readiness benchmarks. Our goals for this platform are to:
- Ensure that every high school student is on track to graduate and planning for the future
- Increase Career and Technical Education (CTE) and post-secondary programs
- Enhance early literacy education and focus on literacy in all grades
Community Investment in Our Youth
Memphis has the highest percentage of opportunity youth (young people who are not in school or working) out of the top 50 largest metropolitan areas – a factor that contributes to Memphis having one of the highest poverty rates in the country. By fully investing in programs that engage our youth, we can address the issues and traumas that can limit their future success. Our goals for this platform are to:
- Increase summer job opportunities that prepare youth for life success
- Support after-school and summer programs that improve student achievement
- Support efforts that address poverty and trauma that impact youth and communities
Facilities & Funding Our Students Deserve
Studies have shown that school facilities can have an impact on student learning and academic achievement. SCS facilities operate with $500 million in deferred maintenance, which means that students must deal with leaky roofs, malfunctioning heaters and air conditioners, and other issues that detract from a conducive academic environment. Success in this platform requires:
- High-quality school facilities that enhance learning for all of our community’s children
- Advocating for necessary and equitable funding to address student needs and create modern environments that provide students with the tools and resources that they need for life and careers in the 21st century
Breaking the School to Prison Pipeline
In Tennessee, black students are five times more likely to be suspended as white students, which, in turn, increases the likelihood that their lives will be negatively impacted by more suspensions, expulsions, interaction with school resource officers (sheriff’s deputies), trauma, lack of opportunities and support, and, ultimately, entry into the youth or adult criminal justice system. Within this platform we hope to achieve:
- School discipline reform that lowers suspensions, increases restorative and non-exclusionary practices, and puts in place proactive preventive measures
- Collaborative effort toward criminal justice reform that values our children and our communities
Advancing these four platforms will not be easy, but we believe that the work is worthwhile, and we invite you to join us as we act for change.
First, if you have not done so already, take the Momentum Memphis pledge and commit to acting for better opportunities and greater success for Memphis’ next generation.
Because improving youth opportunity and success will require support and funding from our local governments, we have created a Campaign Endorsement Committee, which will review candidates and decide which ones have platforms that correspond with our education goals for effective focus of our interest, investment, and support. If you have an interest in politics, consider joining this committee and helping us increase the number of elected officials who can ensure that the allocation of our tax dollars reflects youth success as a community priority.
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Welcome to the movement. Together, we are unstoppable.