The best kept secret to education is... someone chooses to learn.
At Isles Youth Institute, a new crop of 70 young people, mostly 17-20 year olds who have struggled in and dropped out of typical classroom settings, begin their education anew this week.
To make sure they are ready, Isles created a Mental Toughness Period to test and further their readiness.
We look for each student's ability to be part of a team, resolve conflicts, and willingness to do what it takes to get a high school equivalency degree.
This is not a typical 'Back to School' training. But then again, these are talented young people who have decided to drop out at least once before. So we don't think that "typical" works very well for them. Or for us.
One challenge the youth face is the intensity of the violence on Trenton's streets. Some of the students suffer from PTSD, but all of them have the capacity to be peacemakers in their communities. Isles works to create safe havens like gardens and parks, safe families through training and counseling, and safe tools like education, job training, and support for gang leaders looking for a better life.
This puts us in the middle of the anti-violence (or pro-peace) challenges in the city.
The benefits of this work are enormous, to families, communities and places. We know Isles saves taxpayers and others money by helping young people avoid prison, find and keep jobs, and serve as role models on the streets while families enjoy cleaner and greener communities. We continue to try to better quantify the impact of our work.
For now, we can say that we make these benefits happen with very little funding. While government seems all too interested in funding prisons, and the expensive pipeline that leads to them, we find innovative ways to prevent those costs up front.
And we rely on folks like you to help us fund the work.