The future is now, and creating an ever-stronger South Florida means applying all the resources we can muster — now. A committed coalition, including former Sen. Bob Graham, the Knight Foundation and mobilize.org, has set its sights on South Florida’s community college students and the challenges that they face staying in school.
From June 1-3, 125 young people from Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach community colleges will convene to discuss the problems that they face in achieving their academic goals. Better yet, this diverse, idealistic and tech-savvy group is being brought together to come up with solutions, the best of which will receive funding to make them a reality and put them to work.
Nationally, the trend tells of the challenges: About 46 percent of community college students complete a two-year degree within six years, accruing a burden of debt from the start. This makes it harder for this demographic to be as civically engaged in their communities — from joining the PTA to voting to volunteering to making a case at city hall. Such participation is a measure of civic health, and South Florida needs to encourage, not discourage it.
Mobilize.org, based in Washington, D.C., was created 10 years ago and provides financial resources, peer mentoring and leadership development training. It has held several summits with “millennials” across the country. Next week’s will be the first in the state of Florida.
In addition, the challenges are varied across the country: In North Carolina, Mobilize.org found that community college students couldn’t get access to required classes and had to drive long distances to get to school. In San Jose, as in many other cities, it found that class access was adequate, but students’ outside obligations — jobs, children — were a major stumbling block to a two-year degree. No doubt, South Florida students face their own combination of challenges that will be aired and addressed.
There’s funding to back up the coalition’s concern: The top five ideas will win a Mobilize.org Summit Award/Seed Investment — and share $25,000 and a year of expert support to develop and put the proposals into action.
Best of all, there will be a beneficial ripple effect, as winning solutions make academic life easier for the students following in the footsteps of the summit participants, meaning a stronger future for South Floridians.