Using New Educational Technologies to Empower Youth:
The Power of Youth-Adult Partnerships in e-Learning
by Gary Goldman and Barbara L. McCombs

A Call to Action:


“A Virtual Society That Gives Kids The Power To Fix the  World”

By Gary Goldman and Dr. Allen Schmieder

Against the backdrop of the events of September 11, 2001, it is more imperative than ever that our nation dramatically steps up its global involvement and world leadership. Stirred to action by these despicable acts, we have an obligation to respond rapidly and powerfully in the
most positive way possible--and that is to intimately show the world's people how wonderful is the way of life in America and so many other enlightened nations around the world. We must clearly identify and widely share the fantastic contributions of every nation to civilization and the quality of life--the highest in history--that most of the world's people now enjoy. But most important, we must also seek to provide "poor" nations with the resources and know-how needed to overcome their current desperate situations and attain the quality of life that will ensure an end to the seeds of terrorism in those disadvantaged places.

Of all of the resources that can be brought to bear on this dream of hope for all nations and every person, none is so abundant and powerful as the world's children. Many good initiatives have blossomed over the years, directed at improving the communication and welfare of the world's youth. And we owe an immeasurable gratitude of debt to those bold pioneers. But we must now find ways to build on the work of these remarkable pathfinders and raise our children to a central place on the world stage of peaceful community building and economic development. For decades, educational and political leaders everywhere have poignantly stated, "our youth are the most powerful cornerstone of our future."

The future is now. We must immediately, especially through technology and real time global communication, seek new and successful ways to make youth full partners in our quest to build a peaceful and bountiful future for all of the world's children and families. We have two remarkable miracles now available to us--in every nation, every community, every place: hundreds of millions of young people who have been proven to be far more adept at using the new technologies than adults (the first time in history that youth know better than adults, the most important lever for economic development); and the World Wide Web which will enable the kind of communication necessary to effectively and quickly share new resources and build the kind of youth to youth, community to community, nation to nation cooperation and affection that the world has only been able to dream about throughout human history.

It's time for this nation to model this revolution by involving and empowering every young person in America to make significant contributions to energizing their own lives and spearheading the revitalization of their schools, neighborhoods and communities. As a nation we must engage our young people in addressing the issues that most concern them in their lives, their communities and the world around them by joining with others, as full partners, in action to create change.

Inner city schools and many of the neighborhoods and communities in which they exist are near the bottom of the economic opportunity scale and those involved are generally cynical about reversing the situation. What America has failed to realize, is that these schools and
neighborhoods have a rich supply of the most valuable and potentially powerful technology resources in the world-their students! As we show the way to unleash these powerful resources in this country, we will show the way to do the same around the globe.

To accelerate the achievement of this golden promise, we are gathering a group of some of the nation's most extraordinary educational and community leaders to develop a strategy for achieving a "Youth Empowerment Partnership" (YEP!) directed at slamming shut the "Digital
Divide" and in the process, launching K-12 inner city and other at-risk students into the Millennium world of cutting edge technology and financial entrepreneurship. Our goal is to enlist students, schools, parents, community organizations, foundations, business partners, and government agencies nationwide in building one of the most powerful and uplifting initiatives ever undertaken on behalf of our nation's youth- -and in the process energize our urban economies with the unlimited potential and inventive genius of over 50 million school students.

The organizers of this initiative feel strongly that one of the surest ways to motivate, retain and inspire inner city students (as well as other youth) is to prepare them for leadership and economic security in our technology-centered world of free enterprise. We seek to unite all those marvelous entities already serving youth in promoting the development of a collective technology and educational enterprise that will be unparalled in human history! It is our belief that the challenge of preparing an enlightened next generation of leaders is at the center of the world's long term health, safety and well being.

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YEP proposes a virtual society, utilizing three key components: one, the power of the World Wide Web's virtual architecture; second, a proven, common sense approach to community building, centered in youth involvement and collaborative problem-solving (Youth-Centered Community Collaboratives); and third, the final component - the often untapped human resource (i.e. knowledge, leadership, skills, and energy) of America's youth. More specifically, the goal of the Youth-Centered Community Collaboratives (YC3), as an integral part of YES, is to build stronger relationships between youth and youth, and youth and adults. It utilizes resources within the school and community to create a positive environment that results in increased youth social and academic success, and healthier and safer communities for all. Special emphasis is placed on seeing all our youth as learners, teachers, and problems solvers--powerful resources for uplifting the quality of life here and abroad.

YEP will help young people to lead projects and establish their own mark in society. It is truly an opportunity for kids to lead kids with adults acting as facilitators and guides along the way. Through our ongoing "high-tech" and "high-touch" integrative approach YEP offers them the
environment to flourish and build important relationships with other youth and the adults in their lives. The beauty of this program is that ALL young people are eligible to "play." Every child from any walk of life has the opportunity to achieve and succeed! This initiative is for all kids, from the underprivileged to the so-called "at-risk" to the high achieving." In almost every major reform effort in the past, there have clearly been "haves" and "have nots." The playing field has never been equal. All students have the capacity to become technology whizzes--we need only to give them access to the abundance of the worldwide web and its related technologies--and they will excel!

As part of our development of YEP youth participants, from urban, suburban and rural communities, were interviewed during several focus groups/forums. Several said, "If I had the power to change the world I would." Other youth suggested they would initiate various forms of civic engagement. Some of their contributions include: reading books to younger students, creating career related activities for other youth in their community, beautifying their schools through building enhancement projects, meeting with law enforcement or their city government agencies to discuss their ideas on improving the communities. Once again, youth demonstrate their interest in civic and community leadership. YEP will assist America's youth and youth worldwide in achieving their goals of becoming full partners in Millennium efforts to provide a high quality of life for all of the world's citizens.

In designing the YEP, we compared the difference between the senior citizens before and after the advent of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Prior to someone figuring out how to refocus the needs of the discontents, energy and resources of our senior
population, most of their concerns fell on deaf ears. Once they were organized, however, their opinions and desires became some of the most influential in our nation's system of government. We want to do reach a similar goal with our young people. Organize them into a united and powerful group that will dramatically raise their self-esteem, launch them into a positive career path, and provide America and the world with a powerful and almost infinite new resource.

We see ourselves as a vital partner with established youth-focused organizations and programs, and are committed to creating a powerful
collaboration with these youth advocates. If we can effectively re-orient our thinking to be inspired by the collective ideas and potential contributions of our youth, we can significantly enhance the effectiveness of each of these organizations in the communities in which they serve. Imagine the synergistic effect of such a movement!

This is an immense wake-up call for this nation and the world TO TAKE ACTION. We cannot return to "business as usual." Our young people will be the major players in our future, and must be included in any vision of how to build that future. Let our children become the peace
ambassadors for healing the world.

We are inviting the entire educational community to hold this vision of creating a unified global youth initiative in order to bring our planet into a place of peace and prosperity for all. We must include our future, our young generation in this quest. We invite you to share with us your thoughts or resources on making this vision a reality.

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About the Authors:

Gary Goldman, a nationally recognized leader in education reform and youth empowerment, has a B.A. in Psychology and a M.A. in Organization Development. He is President and Founder of Kidzamerica. Gary has a gift for touching and reaching the minds, hearts, and spirit of our young people. Kidzamerica is dedicated to engaging our young people as partners in positive action in making a
difference in our schools, communities and the world.

Goldman is co-author with Dr. Jay Newman of, "Empowering Students to Transform Schools, Corwin Press, CA." "This is a book of revelation. It reveals the power of our youth. They are ready, willing and able to help schools and communties change from institutions into dynamic, living organisms… education with a heart."

Dr. Allen Schmieder is currently the Vice President for K-20 Education and Technology Futures at JDL Technologies, a Minnesota company that works exclusively with school systems to improve their technology infrastructures and related educational programs. Serving seven Presidents, including a recent stint in the White House to help develop the technology-rich K-12 GLOBE Program which is already in 8,000 schools and 80 countries, Dr. Schmieder helped launch many nationally significant technology-centered programs and initiatives. He received the l998 Presidential Award from AECT for "34 years of outstanding leadership and service to education and educational technology at the federal policy level" and was recently named one of the nation's top educators by District Administration Magazine. Dr. Schmieder has authored or edited over 200 publications, the majority focusing on educational reform. Driven by his conviction that there is a gaping (and potentially dangerous to the national welfare) "Digital Divide" between schools and the society that supports them, Dr. Schmieder is currently leading a number of state and national efforts directed at building "Millennium Schools," and accelerating the infusion of technology into school management, instruction, and assessment. He sees "student power" as the key to the rapid destruction of the "Digital Divide" and the building of schools that not only better reflect our technology-centered society, but become leaders in that society.



By Gary Goldman

These young adolescents, ages, 11-16 years old, are at this juvenile detention center by court order for numerous serious crimes. Their length of stay varies from 30 days to several years. It is a place, for many, that is a crossroads for their entire life.

Into this setting I came to work with 15 challenged youth and one staff member in a helf-day workshop. The theme I chose was “Success”. When the youth were asked their definition of success, they said things such as, car, money, women, power, and so on. You could see the youth were not used to really communicating in a group. As part of our ground rules, the staff person had to participate as well.

We discussed the idea of success being an inner experience rather than an external object. For example, when you want money of a car, what experience are you really looking for? Some of the answers were freedom, peace, joy, and security. As we began to delve deeper into their true needs, you could see this awareness making an impact on them.

Next, we challenged the youth to come up with an affirmation using two to three key words that represented the experiences they wanted in their lives, such as, “I want more freedom, and peace in my life!” The next risk was to invite every youth stand up, one at a time, and state their affirmation in such a way that every person there understood it. It was essential that everyone recognize that each affirmation arose from a place of conviction, belief and internal power. Each person could not sit down until everyone agreed that each person’s affirmation was internalized as a powerful tool for transformation. As you can imagine, this process brought up a lot of feelings, from anger to frustration to fear to laughter. What we observed was that the group did not allow any fellow youth to “slide by”. They held each person to a high standard of accountability. This was also done for the lone staff person.

The outcome was amazing. You could sense the newfound esteem and confidence, individually and collectively. They had reached deep down inside themselves and confronted the old beliefs with new a new experiences of purpose and success. A seed had been sown, and now it was up to them to keep it growing. As research shows, it is ideal to have ongoing long-term contact with people, but when there are only short-term interventions available, it is vital to do stimulate a new attitude of hope and possibilities.

As you can see from the youth/staff comments below, this certainly was encouraged.

Staff member comments:

"I have learned that these boys can work together. I have been here for some while and to get these boys to cooperate with each other is amazing. These boys showed
me that they are more intelligent than people tend to think."

Youth comments:

· "I learned that people care about me and that I can do more things with help from
my friends."
· "Today I learned more than I can imagine. I will go on forever, knowing, I have
learned something that will better my life."
· "I learned to go for the gold and to be helpful to other people and show people to
stay on the right path."
· "Today I learned that all people can change to do right after they do wrong."
· "I learned to keep trying when I feel like giving up."
· "I learned about myself. I have to be open and straighten out my life and to share
my feelings with everyone. Thanks for helping with my feelings."

In conclusion, note the staff person's observations. He experienced these youth in a whole new way in just a few hours. "They are more intelligent than people tend to
think". We need to as educators, parents, adults, begin to see our youth in a different light. My experience shows me that EVERY young person has that place of inner
peace and magnificence if we know how to bring it out. That is our challenge. When we, ourselves, connect to our own peace within, then we can share this God-given
gift of "a peace that surpass understanding".

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(Changing the Paradigm of how we see our “At-Risk” youth)

In one Chicago inner-city high school, students made the decision to improve the quality of life and education for all students. This school must accept all students who wish to attend. A majority of the students perform well below the national averages at the time of admission. This school is charged with overcoming the overwhelming odds of increasing student achievement following 8 years of poor preparation. More than 65% of the student population is classified as low income, and many receive public aid, live in foster homes, or reside in institutions for delinquent children. Crime statistics in this neighborhood school are very high. As you can see, life in this school community can be very difficult for these students.

I was invited to come into this setting to work with 50 potential student leaders from all achievement levels. The students were a diverse group that needed to be constantly challenged to reach for new heights. One student in particular appeared to be uninvolved, and for a good part of the all day session, had his head down on the desk. An important part of what I do is recognize the subtle signals that students put out to determine what is really going on with them. It became obvious to me that he was “listening” in his own way to what was going on in the session, and thus, I made a decision to not confront him to “straighten up”. Occasionally, I would pass him by and tap him on the shoulder or give a glance and a wink and keep talking.

When it was time for the entire student group to work on a vision for the school, Keith, “the problem student” sat by himself and made his own vision statement for the school.
It is as follows:


“When in the course of high school events, lots of changes go forth in our lives. We must follow our dreams, look for the unique goals in our lives.
To explore the souls of our students. To give them a bright future. We want a peace of mind, a type of unity in our family. We must learn to have better communication among each other. Let success be our number one priority. Let education take us further in life. Try to be all that we might do. Let us have a form of dependability, work together, and find motivation to push forward. Give each other mutual respect, which will give us faith and self-esteem in each other.

Learning to understand one another. Our achievements. Our knowledge. Our spirit. Let us all make a sacrifice, and hope that we can trust, and believe in one another. Each and every person is likable and unique. Throughout our lives, we’ve had joyous times, and times of pain. Let knowledge be power and let us say, “A powerful source of leadership will rise among us!” and the spirit of our school will never vanish from our lives, but will grow for years to come”.

A very inspiring vision, indeed! This experience with this student goes to the very heart of what needs to be going on in our schools. There is a vast potential, largely untouched in our young people, that must be recognized and tapped. We must see with a new heart and find that place of peace within ourselves first, and then what is waiting to be discovered is the richness of the future-our children’s minds, hearts, and spirit. Let us be steadfast and have the courage to be authentic and create places of peace in our schools in every community in our nation.


Gary Goldman is a nationally-recognized leader in education reform and youth empowerment and he is the coauthor of the book, "Empowering Students to Transform Schools". Gary has taken his message of channeling the power of a generation of young people across the country. He has a special gift for reaching the hearts and minds of our children.

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