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Voices of the Story Tellers: Overview of the February KLCC Evaluators’ Meeting

In February, roughly 30 evaluators, community coaches, coordinating organization personnel and other support staff of the KLCC program convened in Houston to exchange stories about lessons learned over the past year and to discuss the program’s next steps. While details about the achievements and activities of each site will be shared at a later date, the following are a few highlights:

In Buffalo, fellows helped the local school district win a $1.5 million grant from the federal government to support after-school programs. Fellows also have launched a public information campaign, titled “Your Voice, Your Choice,” urging citizens, especially those in disenfranchised communities, to voice their opinions about the criteria for school board members. All nine school board seats are up for reelection this year. The fellows were also instrumental in getting the local school district boundaries redrawn so that residents now have a good chance of selecting their first Latino elected official.

In Minneapolis/St Paul, the KLCC process has raised many new questions for the host agency about nurturing leadership development across traditional boundaries. Among the lessons they’ve learned is that the balance between new/emerging leaders and established leaders can dramatically affect the dynamics of shared leadership. New/emerging leaders appear more eager to seek peer mentoring and may be more open to seizing the opportunity to acquire new skills. Established leaders, meanwhile, are valuable because of their rich experience. The key is finding the right mix.

In Montana, where the initial goal was to reduce student drop out rates, fellows have learned that the emotional component of leadership is a driving force for change. Though their focus has shifted somewhat since they started, the fellows in this group have developed close bonds and have become instrumental in shaping a variety of new programs that are taking the schools into the community. Fellows also have helped students create innovative programs — such as the campus Indian Clubs and a peer mediation program — that are giving the youth new reasons to become interested in school.

In New Mexico, the cooperative work of KLCC fellows is facilitating the exchange of best practices across ethnic, tribal and jurisdictional boundaries. One example is the creation of a new council for higher education among the Acoma Tribal Council, an idea they borrowed from the neighboring Laguna Tribal Council. In another example, a recent trip to Hawaii to observe an indigenous Hawiian school system has inspired KLCC fellows to apply some of what they learned to the New Mexico context. In order to strengthen ties across academic jurisdictions, the local schools have decided to unify their calendars and to use an electronic bulletin board system to streamline the exchange of educational information among the various communities.

In South Texas, the youth are becoming more involved in community leadership. Student fellows from this KLCC site are taking on an increased level of responsibility at their school and in the wider community. They are even urging the school system to add a leadership course to the curriculum so that students can receive academic credit for their community involvement. One 18-year-old fellow, Crystal Elissetche, has become so inspired by her KLCC experience that she is running for a position on the local school board.

In Wisconsin, three KLCC fellows have decided to run for public office and several others are helping to design new programs aimed at bringing the schools into the communities. The fellows, most of whom are women, are reported to be assuming new roles and participating in the community in ways they hadn’t before. Their activities have attracted the attention of the existing power structure.

View video of the Houston meeting

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