College students can use their privilege to help kids become their best selves

Photo credit: pixabay

A couple weeks ago, I sat at a table in the middle of the Miami Women’s March, covering posters with glitter glue and talking to the kids around me.

“I hope a woman is elected president in 2020 because 1920 was the year of women’s suffrage, and it would be the 100th year anniversary,” said a 12-year-old girl I was working on a poster with.

This was one of many memorable remarks I heard from children throughout my day of volunteering at the kids table during the Miami march.

While the millennial generation is deemed the “generation of the future,” we often neglect to incorporate the younger generation into the mix. Yet they are the real heir apparent, the ones next in line to take on the nation’s issues. It is critical, in a time of such perilous volatility in the White House, that they be armed with the weapons necessary to do so.

With this in mind, it is difficult to ignore UM’s lack of outreach to underprivileged children, for those with setbacks hindering them from taking on the world that lies ahead.

We certainly have a few specific programs oriented toward providing for Generation Y and sharing our resources. Students do arts and crafts with sick children from the Ronald McDonald House as part of the club The Art of Healing. Other Miami students mentor local children for the Big Brothers Big Sisters Club. Written In My Soul pairs student mentors with kids to teach them how to use poetry as a form of expression.

However, the need in Miami, and globally, stretches far beyond a few clubs and service days. Children in lower-income neighborhoods, children of undocumented immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, children with absentee parents and juvenile delinquents have limitless futures – if we simply invest our resources in aiding them.

Many universities across the United States have already started taking on this initiative. The University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, Tufts University and 24 other East Coast colleges participate in the Petey Greene program, which trains college students to tutor juvenile delinquents and help them get on a path toward their GEDs.

The program is named for American TV and radio legend Petey Greene, who cultivated his interest in radio during his imprisonment for armed robbery earlier on in life, eventually allowing him to rise to success as a hopeful symbol for what the program strives to achieve.

The other coast is making waves as well. Eight California universities have created resources to aid the children of immigrant parents, those kids protected under the DREAM Act, during their transition to college. Schools such as UCLA, UC Davis and Cal State Fullerton have implemented resource centers to provide a welcoming environment and personal counseling for DACA students, diminishing the alienation and overwhelming fear they face in the college process. These resources motivate DACA students to navigate the trials of high school and reach higher education.

That work is important. According to Harvard researcher Robert Gonzales’s National UnDACAmented Research Project, a whopping 21 percent of DACA students drop out of high school before graduation, compared to the 5.9 percent national drop out rate as of 2017.

We are privileged to attend a school located in such a diverse region of the world – a region inclusive of all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. As I sit in the stunning Shalala Student Center with an overpriced cup of coffee at my side, I must concede that I have more than enough, as do many of my peers. We all have currency to offer, whether it is money, time or care.

Perhaps we can maintain a virtual correspondence with young victims of the recent hurricane in Puerto Rico, partner with a juvenile detention center or host free concerts and productions to expose younger children to the arts.

The next generation of world leaders is, oftentimes, just a few miles or blocks away. We have the capacity to shape their trajectories and teach them to be the revolutionaries they all have the potential to be.

Dana Munro is a sophomore majoring in musical theater.