Special thanks to Nicole Liter, DNT Community Partner, for writing this post!

When I first heard about the project the DeKalb teachers were embarking on with incoming freshman, my initial thoughts were, “this could be a huge undertaking with minimal success.”  With my past experiences in teaching 8th graders, I did not have a lot of optimism for the majority in this project.  Let me be completely honest, this age group has a reputation for being immature and tend to lack concern or interest in the preparation for their distant futures.  However, this is not true for all in this age group.  

The 70 students in the Freshman Tech class, i.e. Generation Z or “Gen La-Z” (as they have been Gen DIY 3labeled), were presented with the task to produce an action plan to demonstrate how they would spend their next 4 years of high school becoming successful and prepared upon graduation time.   Thus, breaking that La-Z stereotype.  The plan had to consist of specific ways they would incorporate Agency, Collaboration, and Oral Communication.  Furthermore, this was assigned on the first day of school!  

The students were grouped together and had to present their completed plans just 8 school days later.  I and two other community leaders were given the opportunity to speak with the entire class the first day of school.  We were able to give our insight into what the community is looking for in the next generation’s workforce. This was a notable way to show the students that this wasn’t just an assignment handed down by their teachers, but collaboration with teachers to demonstrate to the students how important we believe their own successes are and that the entire community has a profound interest in their futures.  

Gen DIY 1The student groups presented their action plans to DeKalb’s administration where groups were then narrowed down to the top five.  The three of us were privy to observing the final 5 groups and deciding on the very best.  And, I must say, I was highly impressed with all presentations.  The focus and collaboration it took these 14 and 15 year-olds is significant and noteworthy.  They all did an amazing job.  Some of the ideas were very specific and innovative.  I was amazed at their thought processes, their communication skills, and their obvious interest in presenting the best plan possible.  This project is definitely one that Dekalb should continue with community partnerships.  It has proven to be an effective way to show support to our younger generation and confirm to them that they are an important and crucial part of our society.