Growing up in San Francisco's Tenderloin

In San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, everyone has a story to tell. Long home to the city’s homeless and mentally ill, the Tenderloin also pulses with immigrants upended by turmoil in their native country. Here, among the single-occupancy hotels, a family of five can squeeze into two small rooms and make a fresh start. This is the poorest and most densely packed neighborhood in San Francisco. It also has the highest concentration of children under 18 anywhere in the city.

In this new book from WKCD and Next Generation Press, youth from the neighborhood share their stories. All members in the Tenderloin Clubhouse at Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco (BGCSF), they provide a vivid portrait of growing up in a neighborhood many shun. Their photographs and words will open your eyes and hearts. Read more. Order a copy.


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The first time you read Brooklyn high school student Chanie Gorkin's poem,"Worst Day Ever," it comes across as contentious. It begins: "Today was the absolute worst day ever/ And don't try to convince me that/ There's something good in every day/ Because, when you take a closer look/ This world is a pretty evil place." But if you read the poem again from the bottom to the top, the message flips. That clever twist is what made the poem go viral. In a recent interview on NPR's The Take Away, Gorkin explains why she wrote the poem and her surprise at the response.
"School is out, but science is everywhere." That's the tagline for a new online feature at the New York Times. A recent post describes an encounter with a venomous tree frog in Brazil. Another probes a dying star's remains. A third describes looking for clues to early life in an underwater volcano. "Bear viewing never gets boring," scientist Jenna Schnuer writes about her visit to Katmai National Park in Alaska, where the bears on's bear-cams live.

More and more public schools are starting and expanding honors programs, including honors colleges that give students some of the perks of private schools without the exorbitant tuition. "While they're hardly secrets," writes Frank Bruni of the NY Times, "they don't get quite the attention from college applicants--most notably from those fixated on the Ivy League and its ilk--that they deserve." This new web site fills that gap.

Reported over four months, "Unlocked" is a three-part investigation into alternatives to juvenile incarceration, produced by young people at the award-winning Youth Radio. Their investigation documents how moves away from juvenile incarceration nationwide are affecting youth and the system, sometimes with unintended consequences. Youth Radio is a nationally acclaimed media production company that trains diverse young people in digital media and technology.

Started in 2006, Adobe Youth Voices (AYV) engages youth across the globe in developing digital media to drive change in their communities. Each year, AYV recognizes the best of these youth-produced media. Among this year's 15 winners, a Palestinian teenage refuge named Majed recalls the day a fire destroyed the refugee camp in the Iraqi desert where he lived with his family for five years ("Better Than Baghdad"). In her collage "Representation Matters," 17-year-old Asian-American Valerie Kao urges the media to "go beyond exclusive standards on beauty, race, and other elements of self-identity."
Last year, parents, students, teachers and community members in Los Angeles achieved a huge victory: they successfully pushed the LA school board to adopt the "Equity Is Justice Resolution," which will direct the distribution of new state funding to prioritize the highest-needs students and schools. A new, short, bilingual video--from the Schott Foundation for Public Education and the Community Coalition--highlights the campaign and the dedicated parents and young people who made equity the guiding principle of their city's school funding system.
This remarkable report by 60 self-selected Kentucky middle and high school students and college undergraduates--all members of the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team--uncovers the unacknowledged barriers behind the state's troubling postsecondary graduation rates. In addition to poring over the latest research and data, the team interviewed academics, policymakers, parents, teachers, administrators and, most notably, students statewide to understand the challenges inherent in the postsecondary transition experience. See also an excellent article about the report by one of its high school authors.



“Getting good” is how kids refer to the journey toward mastery, when we talk, writes WKCD's Kathleen Cushman in her ongoing blog about adolescent learning and motivation. "Talking about sports, the arts, their hobbies, or any number of out-of-school pursuits, they vividly describe their growing interest, struggles, and satisfactions. But when it comes to school, the light often goes out of their eyes. How can teachers spark the fire of motivation in academic settings as well, so that our students will really want to learn? I’ve been exploring those questions for some years now — not just with teachers, but with students, and with researchers in the learning sciences."
"Summer learning loss" has gained prominence as another hurdle to improving student achievement. Four years ago, WKCD commissioned youth journalists at Y-Press in Indianapolis to report on the issue of summer learning loss, including documenting a remarkable summer camp called "City Stories" that Y-Press teens organized for local middle school students. At the end of the second year of the summer camp, Y-Pressers created a one-of-a-kind handbook and curriculum for youth and adults in other cities to use. This WKCD feature story, still timely includes articles, multimedia, the handbook, and resources on summer learning produced by Y-Press journalists.
For more than 12 years, WKCD has asked middle and high school students what helps---or hinders---their efforts to do well in school (and life). We started with the premise that young people need more than academic "smarts" to prosper. They must also develop "character strengths" like grit, conscientiousness, and self-control. They need to learn how to manage stress. They need to believe that they can succeed in spite of obstacles. In this short video and booklet, we share what young people have told us and what the research says. The video, intended to prompt discussion among students, includes many places to pause and reflect.
What does teaching look like when it truly centers on the student's learning needs? What practices, structures, and tools do schools that embrace student-centered learning turn to every day? From our research, eight core elements come to the fore: strong relationships with students; personalization and choice in curricular and instructional tasks; appropriate challenge levels for each learner; supporting students' social and emotional growth; anytime, anywhere, and real-world learning; technology that is integral to teaching and learning; clear, timely assessment and support; and fostering autonomy and lifelong learning. Learn more.
For as long as she can remember, Shantel has wanted to be a vet. Now this tenth grader is counting the hours until her afternoon assignment. She will be shadowing a livestock veterinarian—come to check the health of the goats, sheep, and chickens that Shantel helps to tend here at Common Ground High School. Four miles from downtown New Haven, students like Shantel are being swept up and away by one of the first and finest environmentally focused schools in the United States. It’s no surprise that Common Ground, a charter school with a most public mission, wins awards for being “green” while also galvanizing impressive levels of academic achievement.
Growth Mindset and Why It Matters
Few ideas about learning have made their way as quickly into the lexicon of educators as growth mindset. WKCD has assembled five short videos that provide a lively introduction to growth mindset and why it matters, for students as well as teachers. At the end of each video we offer suggestions for activities and assignments, for use by teachers (as part of a professional development workshop) and by students (as part of their classroom learning). We encourage you to browse through the presentation and pick those videos that work for your situation and audience—and to amend the suggested activities.
Student and Youth Voice: Asking, Listening, and Taking Action
When WKCD embraced student voice as part of our guiding principles in 2001, the idea that youth should be welcomed as crucial investors in improving their schools and communities had few advocates. The research on the power of student engagement was commensurately sparse. To us, however, it made gut sense to privilege student and youth voice and vision. So for thirteen years WKCD has supported youth as collaborators: in our books and other publications (e.g., our “Fires” series); in survey projects nationwide; in more than 75 grants to student research groups across the globe; and in the feature stories we produce for this website. Here is an inventory of all we've created with youth as partners.

According to the Pell Institute, only 11 percent of first-generation, low-income college students receive a degree within six years. (The degree attainment rate for students who are neither low-income nor first-generation is 54 percent.) WKCD's own interviews with first-generation students underscore the reasons, from poor academic preparation to balancing full-time employment with full course loads. Faced with a torrent of assumptions about who they are or are not, first-generation students tend to keep these burdens to themselves, ashamed of their circumstances or asking for help. Suddenly, however, their struggles—especially at some of our nation's "elite" private institutions—are making headlines, as students step forward and reporters seek out their stories.




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Student/Youth Voice

College Matters

Global Youth Voices

Great American Dreaming

Just Listen!

Mentors That Matter

Service Learning

Students as Allies in School

Student Research for Action

Voices from the Middle Grades

Youth in Policy: Civics2

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popular wkcd
publications [pdf

A Guide to Creating Teen-
Adult Public Forums

Cultural Conversations through Creative Writing

Documenting Immigration Stories

First Ask, Then Listen: How Your
Students Can Help You Teach
Them Better

Making Writing Essential to
Teen Lives

Profiles of Politically Active Youth

Queer Youth Advice for Educators

SAT Bronx

The Schools We Need: Creating
Small High Schools That Work
for Us



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Fires in the Mind

Fires in the Bathroom

Fires in the Middle School Bathroom