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Town & Gown
September 5, 2000

Town & Gown

Mobile Commits to Kids. America's Promise--The Alliance for Youth. Mobile's Promise

by Elliott Lauderdale

Colin Powell had his own message at the Republican National Convention. While General Powell has declined to be involved in national political campaigns, he appears never to have ceased mobilizing grassroots energies to provide opportunities for young people, especially urban young people. Powell is chairman of America's Promise--The Alliance for Youth, a national non-profit organization "dedicated to improving the lives of our nation's more than fifteen million at-risk youth."

Volunteer Mobile is the lead agency for Mobile's Promise, previously known as Mobile Commits to Kids, a synergistic union of Envision Mobile-Baldwin County and America's Promise. The two programs share the principles of participatory planning and action, accountability, promoting responsibility, and collaboration.

Volunteer Mobile recently received the George W. Romney Volunteer Center Excellence Award at the 2000 National Community Service conference in Orlando. Local volunteers provided more than 250,000 hours of service in Mobile. Executive Director Penny Dendy is proud of the numbers, but stresses "the impact on the lives of citizens."

Envision Mobile Baldwin began with an endeavor to engage the community in town meetings to imagine a better Mobile for the future. Similarly, adult planners for the Mobile Commits to Kids (MCK) Volunteer Summit chose to seek out the ideas of children. On 7 November 1998, fifty young people gathered at a MCK Youth Rally. The Youth Rally Report is a refreshing and enlightening summary of the contributions of youth to the design of Mobile Commits to Kids. Reading this Summary, which is available from Volunteer Mobile, should encourage us further to engage young people in helping themselves. This is some of what the young people had to say:

This productive community conversation was organized around what America's Promise calls the five fundamental resources needed in order for our youth to lead healthy and productive lives:

Thus far, Volunteer Mobile has organized commitments from all sectors of the community to earn Mobile the designation as a Community of Promise in February 1998. This pledges the community to reach at least ten percent of young people at risk, to engage the entire community and its organizations in providing the five resources needed to fulfill the promises, to use America's Promise measurement tools to monitor progress, and to convey information about local activity to the national organization.

Mobile Commits to Kids has divided the county into nine Kid Zones. The map is available at Resource focus groups are now engaged in mapping resources to address all five promises and who is in need of services.

Many organizations have made commitments to Mobile's Promise, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Alabama, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Alabama Cooperative Extension, University of South Alabama sororities, YMCA, YWCA, Bay Health, 100 Black Men, the Mobile County Health Department, Franklin Clinic, Crittenton Teen Services, Mobile Teen Center, Mobile Public Library, Mobile Area Education Foundation, Goodwill Industries, Gulf Coast Exploreum, Mobile Teacher groups, and Mobile County Public Schools. One reason Mobile's Promise has been able to engage organizations from throughout the community is its linkage to ongoing programs such as Envision Mobile-Baldwin and Volunteer Mobile.

One example of higher education's contribution to this community effort is the work of J.D. Eaton, a senior in Adult Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of South Alabama. Eaton is serving as liaison for Trinity Gardens with the Kid Zone and as co-chair of the Marketable Skills Resource Committee with Lisa Brazelton of Volunteer Mobile. Eaton is working on his senior project, which proposes to synthesize scholarly knowledge, best practice from other U.S. cities, and local resources to empower young people to acquire education and marketable skills. Some of the skills this Resource Committee enumerated are teamwork, literacy, problem solving, technology skills, flexibility, communication skills, personal responsibility, planning, and decision making.

Several Adult Interdisciplinary Studies (AIS) students are and have worked on projects that contribute to Mobile's Promise. Heather McCants is evaluating parenting programs for young fathers. Two student projects focus on the Family Exchange program for educating parents. Five AIS students chose to work on projects concerned with at-risk youth during this past summer semester alone. Many USA students have volunteered as reading tutors as part of service learning courses in Education, AIS, Sociology, or as part of America Reads.

The USA Mathematics and Statistics is working with the Maysville Collaborative to establish baseline data for their effort to build teamwork among students, parents, teachers and principals, and improve math instruction.

To become part of this effort to fulfill America's Promise to our children, contact Mobile's Promise at Volunteer Mobile (Telephone: 433 4456) to serve on any of the five resource focus groups.


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