Who Are the Changemakers in Your Community?

Editor’s note: Fernando Otero is a senior at Arizona State University. Here he shares his own impressions from the recent launch at ASU of the White House’s Young American Series.

In Phoenix, Arizona’s Young Americans are the changemakers. Earlier this month the White House, in partnership with the U.S Department of Education, kicked off the White House Young America Series at Arizona State University with 150 Young Americans in attendance.

Launch of the Young American Series at ASU

Ronnie Cho, Associate Director and Young Americans Liaison, White House Office of Public Engagement, and Arizona State University students at the recent Young American Series launch.

We, Young Americans, created the agenda, discussed the most pertinent issues impacting us and shared our solutions. The energy in the room was electric! The issues discussed included food policy, civic engagement and education.

In the largest group, the concept of education was deconstructed and re-envisioned.

Our breakout group discussed and identified many problems within education and pinpointed a few that, once solved, could cause a trickle effect and reform education in our country as a whole. Some of the issues we discussed were the literacy problems that currently exist, as well as the unfortunate reality of teachers “teaching to the test” in order for students to pass standardized exams. We believe that all of these things further contribute to the challenges facing America’s educational system.

The preparation programs in our colleges need to focus more on practice rather than theory. There is a wide range of challenges in our nation affecting our students that can’t simply be reduced to some arbitrary theory. Our teachers need to understand the diverse needs of the American student and how to effectively address them. The education system has allowed too many students to slip between the cracks and it is up to us to revive the passion that will help unleash the potential those students have within them.

If our teachers fail to understand the needs of their students, they will not be able to effectively reach or teach them.

-Fernando Otero, Arizona State University Class of 2012


  1. If you want to be involved, you should joing groups/clubs. This event was with “Young Americans Club”

  2. I often wonder how I can get involved in these educational initiatives sponsored by the White House/ U.S. Department of Education. As a lawyer and former middle and high school teacher, I have an abundance of skills sets and in the field experiences that can contribute vastly to the civic engagement and policy agendas.
    While I agree with you partially, atleast to the conclusion drawn, I do not think that teacher’s preparation should focus more on practice than theory. There need to be a balanced approach and teacher should definitely spend more time in the practicum and undergo rigorous screening , hiring and talent development processes. Courses such as critical and creative thinking,data analysis and system thinking are highly imperative to classroom operations/management. Definitely, teachers need to be
    properly prepared before assuming leadership roles… because in the end it boils down to a leadership issue. The question therefore becomes , how do we create the visionary and mission driven educational leaders in a world-centered environment.
    As to , ” teaching to the test”, teacher have always done that, especially teacher designed test. They want to make sure students pass the test. It means less work and more ill-prepared students… Passing a test is equivalent to SMARTNESS. It is very illusory.
    Finally, I really believe that the educational sector(K-12) must become more professional! It is puzzling to know that our hairdressers and barbers, even garbage collectors control their professions, yet TEACHER those who mold and shape the minds of the future workforce have little to say about their livelihood.

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