On December 8th, I had the honor of joining nearly 800 students, teachers and public figures in Brasília for an incredible showcase of youth leadership in citizen oversight and community stewardship. The event was the final prize ceremony for the semester-log student citizenship initiative run by the Comptroller General’s Office of the Federal district in 104 schools throughout Brasília. I can say without a doubt that the student initiatives developed during this project, many of which were featured on stage, surpassed the expectations of everyone involved and left the room humbled, inspired and hungry for more.
The goal of the initiative has been to facilitate active engagement on behalf of students in evaluating and improving their campuses and school life. Throughout the 4-month trajectory, student teams participated in a series of activities including a theater piece around citizenship, an audit of school infrastructure and services using Promise Tracker, assessment of the root causes of key challenges identified, and the development of student-led proposals to tackle the most pressing challenges that participants believed they had the power to resolve. The event this month was to recognize the work achieved by students in this process and award grants to the top 10 schools based on their participation in all stages of the initiative.
Independent of grant resources and before the prize ceremony even occurred, students in all of the participating schools had taken action to solve at least one of the problems they documented. Student projects included everything from clean-up and renovation of recreational spaces, to convincing City Hall to build a sidewalk in front of the school (completed the same month!). Though they represent a small fraction of the phenomenal initiatives completed, some of the highlights included:
- Monitoring My School app
In the CED 14 de Ceilândia school, students developed a new app inspired by Promise Tracker to track the individual and collective behavior of students around campus cleanliness and upkeep. Representatives from each class can access the app to document things like the tidiness of classrooms, littering in common areas and cleanup initiatives. Janitorial staff also weigh in each month to assess how students are doing overall.
- Local Web Radio Station
One of the main issues identified by students at CEF 03 de Planaltina was that the computer lab was in disrepair and no longer open for student use. After renovating the room, the team launched a new Web Radio initiative to attract both teachers and students to maintain the space. Students ran workshops on reporting and how to design local programming and recorded their first shows to post to their new website. With the prize funding the team will be expanding to FM transmission.
- Project Autonomy
Developed within the São Bartolomeu Juvenile Detention Center, Project Autonomy was designed to offer youth serving sentences the opportunity to experience greater responsibilities and participate in revitalizing their common spaces. The student team renovated an unused wing of their detention center, taking advantage of recycled and underused materials to furnish and decorate a new autonomous area, to be inhabited by those 18 and over with outstanding behavior. As part of the project, this group lives with open doors, has access to unlimited outdoor recreational time during the day, and engages in collective decision making to maintain and improve their quarters.
With 4,000 student participants, the Brasília initiative has been the largest deployment of Promise Tracker to date and we’re thrilled to be part of a larger program that recognizes the role of citizen monitoring within a broader process to promote direct involvement of community members not only in identifying local challenges, but also as protagonists in developing their solutions.
The energy and infectious enthusiasm in the auditorium on December 8th were a testament to the powerful process students embarked on over the past months and the incredible ownership they felt over what they had achieved. All throughout the speeches and announcements, the room erupted in near-deafening cheers from participants for both their own schools’ accomplishments and those of others.
The Comptroller General’s Office in Brasília intends to scale the initiative to over 200 schools next fall and is already at work planning how the dedication and creativity of this year’s cohort can reach as many people as possible. We can wait to see what is to come in 2018!