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Don’t Call in the National Guard; Call in the Youth!

Amidst the pandemic and social unrest, a unique opportunity has opened for the Trump Administration to change the course of opportunity for youth and address many of the ills that plague them.

Like the feat that lay before President Roosevelt in the 1930s, the Trump Administration faces a nation that is wading in the murky uncertainty of fear. With an unpropitious outlook that their future will be worse than the one to which they were born, millions of young Americans are turning their backs to hope and justice and they are squaring up to uncertainty with insidious beliefs in seclusion and isolationism. Racism, economic inequality, and the unquenchable desire of the few power elites have ripped at this nation’s heart. String by string, so much of the fabric that we call America is unraveling, being torn asunder. What was once a mighty quilt of diversity is quickly becoming a personal insecurity blanket that too many are willing to share.

Now is the time for the Trump administration to tailor creative policies and programs into rural and urban America that will provide the lifesaving thread that will weave our county together, not tear it apart. Sending in the National Guard will do more harm than good. The Trump administration can start by projecting a path that is clearer, brighter, and lasting for the most marginalized young people in our society. It must paint a picture of optimism and future prosperity for all.

Trump must start by recognizing that any effort to engage the most marginalized youth must stem from a set of culturally competent principles and practices sustained by policy and sufficient resources. Don’t call in the national guard; call in the youth! Young people must feel valued as stakeholders and compelled to invest in active and meaningful participation towards mutual goals. In short, Trump needs a youth-driven system, not an adult one– facts, both real and alternative, prove that leaving it up to adults doesn’t work.

It is time for the Trump Administration to focus on the real issues facing those marginalized and left out of the economic mainstream. It’s time to step in the right direction, and an analysis of Roosevelt’s New Deal program can help show the way.

The Federal One Program, a highlight of Roosevelt’s New Deal, consisted of five distinct components. Each of these efforts tapped into the cultural capital of the nation: The Federal Writers Project, The Federal Theater Project, The Federal Arts Project, The Federal Music Project, and the Historical Records Survey Project. These components focused on job creation for those who were not served well in traditional New Deal programs while infrastructure improvement projects served everyone else. Using a similar framework, the Trump administration has a prime opportunity to address racism and the lack of opportunity in a manner that utilizes the natural resources of our land – our youth.

The opportunity to create a more all-encompassing Federal One Project is ripe. The Trump Administration can create a massive paid opportunities program that utilizes the cultural and highly influential power of young people to foster in an age of compassion, trust, and reciprocity. But first, President Trump needs to get out of his own way.

Just a few examples – the administration can revamp the Federal Music Project. Similar to the new Deal, local youth artists, rappers, dancers, and performers can develop and deliver a mandatory series of performances and trainings designed to curtail the level of racism and violence inherent in criminal justice and law enforcement systems across the U.S.

Expanding off the Works Progress Administrations’ Federal Writers project, a newly formed Federal Social Media Project could employ thousands of social media mavens to creatively address issues of violence, education, and substance abuse.

Inspired by the Federal Mathematical Tables Project begin in 1938, Community-Based Organization can receive grants to fund local residents in the documentation of injustices in the criminal justice and educational systems and work cooperatively with the newly established Federal MAKiN’ iT Right project to implement programs and policies to address these wrongs.

A newly created Credible Messenger project could hire, and train marginalized local community residents to serve the undeserved and empower the disenfranchised. These are the jobs where those who were forgotten and overlooked become the advocates for those who look exactly like they did once upon a time, with the most important aspect of their job is being to make sure that no one is overlooked and undervalued again.

The Administration must learn a new way to make deals. In addition to connecting youth to the labor market and improving the youth labor force participation rate (a very real indicator that shows the health of our county), efforts such as these show youth just how much we really care. And, as any good youth worker knows, you must meet them where they are and as they are to help them get to where they want to be. That’s how we do business!

Edward DeJesus is the author of MAKiN’ iT and the founder of the MAKiN' iT Nation.

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