The art of advocacy: Finding meaning in policy

I have had the incredible experience of interning with the Michigan League for Public Policy during this never-ending winter. The people I have met, and the knowledge and heartbreak (from researching student homelessness) I have experienced, provided me with immense opportunity to reflect on my personal life and be grateful for what I have. Working at the League has enabled me to research topics I had never really thought of before,  providing me the opportunity to find my passion—advocating for those less fortunate than I am.

Education has always been something extremely important to me and I will forever be grateful to my parents for supporting me and granting me with the opportunity to receive the education that I have. Last summer I had an internship with a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that focused on providing support to youth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA region) to help them find employment. Upon starting at the League I had the opportunity to pick what I wanted to focus on, so naturally, I picked something closely related to education—student homelessness. These two internships have allowed me to gain a better appreciation for what I have and drove me to further shape my future goals to help students that have not had the same opportunities I have had.

Collaborating with the big-hearted individuals at the League and the incredibly passionate people I have met throughout the past four months has contributed to the development of my long-term goal to start a nonprofit to advocate for students in Michigan to receive the best education they can, while having a stable environment to thrive in. Life is not all about academic education, but also about what is learned outside of the classroom, through work, sports, clubs or whatever else students may be involved in. Learning should not just be confined to a classroom, although the classroom plays a big part in the overall structure, there is so much opportunity out there to learn and grow as individuals. Often times people look at the bigger picture of how we can help, and focus their resources abroad or nationally, but it is extremely important to understand that so much can be done much closer to home.

During my time at the League, I have worked on the 2018 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book to help determine that the economic, health, education, and family and community sectors in the state of Michigan still have a long way to grow. To better the national standards, we must first start by bettering the standards in Michigan.

Thank you to everyone at the League for the huge hearts you have for advocating for the people of Michigan and for accepting me into your family. Special thanks to Alicia Guevara Warren, my incredible boss, for providing me with this amazing opportunity to grow and learn so much about the disparities in Michigan. There was never a day that I didn’t look forward to coming to the office to see what problem was being tackled that day. Thank you to Rachel, Gilda, my fellow intern Spike, and everyone else at the League for providing such a fun, hardworking environment to advocate for change. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to intern with the League this semester. I will never forget all of the things I have been able to accomplish with the help, advice and guidance of the advocates at the League!

— Alexa Krout

Kids are the future, so let’s teach them to count

Alexa Krout

Alexa Krout

My name is Alexa and I am one of the newest interns at the Michigan League for Public Policy. I look forward to this exciting opportunity to work with the amazing staff here and gain experience in state policy as well as advocate for the people—and kids—of Michigan.

I am currently an undergraduate student in my final semester at James Madison College of Michigan State University, where I am studying International Relations and Spanish. I have a strong interest in the international community and how the world is changing how different cultures interact with one another; in the U.S, this is rooted in individual states. Not only the state, but how the state government interacts with the community, especially children. Children are our future and if we don’t put more resources into them, there will be no growth for the overall community in the seemingly near future.

I am excited for the opportunity to help advocate for children that are too young to have their voices heard, particularly in education and education reforms, which are essential parts of life. The education I have received throughout my life has shaped me into the person I am today, in and out of the classroom. But, unfortunately, not everyone is given the same opportunity. Educational opportunities for youth of color in underdeveloped areas is extremely lacking and if all students don’t get that essential knowledge and experience, then Michigan is sending a clear message about its values and the state will not thrive.

AECF Kids Count

AECF Kids Count

My educational experience hasn’t always been the easiest, but it is one that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I am very grateful for the opportunities that have arisen from it. I’ve learned how to make my voice heard even though I am often soft-spoken, and I have gained the ability to analyze detailed text, think critically and formulate an unbiased argument. All of this is not only beneficial for education, but is essential to succeeding in everyday life. What I have learned throughout my education is that not only do I have a say, but I have the ability to advocate for those without equal opportunity.

Additionally, throughout my professional experience I have been focused on youth and youth development in education, a topic that I am passionate about. During an internship that I had last summer, I had the chance to work with a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that advocated and supplied resources to youth in underdeveloped nations, providing the backing they needed to succeed. With my background in Spanish, I hope to be able to advocate for a community that not only struggles with a lack of educational opportunity, but also the inability to communicate effectively with people around them.

My prior experience, along with everything I’ve learned throughout my education and life, will help me excel in my work here with the Kids Count in Michigan project. I hope to bring a different perspective to the table and not only offer valuable insight on how the state and individual communities can help raise awareness, but help develop and promote policy solutions on how to get kids learning in and out of the classroom. Without youth, there is no future; the change of our world starts with the kids who will grow to be the leaders of tomorrow. After all, the best gift someone can give is the ability to receive an education—which every kid should be able to benefit from.

— Alexa Krout

 

Michigan improves in overall child well-being, drops to 10th worst state in nation for education

For Immediate Release
June 21, 2016

Contact: Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

National 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book ranks Michigan 31st in country for kids; state ranks high for children’s health, poor for education performance and poverty

LANSING—Michigan dropped to 40th in the nation for children’s education, according to the 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie. E. Casey Foundation. In Michigan, more than half of young children are not in preschool, 71 percent of fourth-graders are not proficient in reading, and 71 percent of eighth-graders are not proficient in math. (more…)

Mass incarceration and the kids left behind

Losing a parent to incarceration can be very traumatic for children. Not understanding why a parent is gone and can’t come home, wondering why he or she might be far away, being frustrated because frequent visits might not be possible all while the other parent undergoes tremendous financial and emotional stress.

In Michigan at least 1 in 10 children has been impacted by parental incarceration. This is one of the highest rates in the country—only Indiana (11%) and Kentucky (13%) have higher percentages of children who have had a parent incarcerated. As a result of mass incarceration and the “tough on crime” movement many children and families have been left behind in communities without adequate support and resources. (more…)

Many kids stuck in poverty without solutions

Contact: Judy Putnam or Jane Zehnder-Merrell, 517.487.5436

Kids Count in Mich. ranks 82 counties on child well-being

LANSING, Mich. – Too many kids in Michigan remain mired in poverty at a time when policymakers have reduced help for struggling families, according to the Kids Count in Michigan Data Book 2015 released today.

Three measures of economic conditions worsened over the trend period with nearly one in every four children living in an impoverished household, a 35 percent increase in child poverty over six years. The trend period measured from 2006 to 2012 or 2013, depending on the availability of data.

(more…)