I wake up every day inspired to challenge the reasons that the status quo exists. There are countless policies and practices in youth and child development that, when further examined, do not achieve what they set out to do. Children’s rights to health, education, and personal well-being remain unprotected in countless settings around the world despite the best of intentions. It is my hope to dedicate my life’s work to critically examining social programming and policy for children around the world. I have a desire to use my experience working alongside marginalized and underserved youth, in tandem with my holistic knowledge of childhood and international educational development, to improve the quality of and access to formal, non-formal and informal learning opportunities for children around the world.

 

While it is not novel to seek change in the systems of childhood, my approach is unique in that I am inspired by globalization, modernization, and holistic community approaches to learning. Due to marked advances in technology and travel, communities across the globe are more united and connected than they have been at any point in known history. It makes sense that now is the time to rethink the way that communities are engaged in supporting the learning of the world’s youngest citizens. As I see the ways technology continues to expand the access children have to the geographic and information-filled world around them, it becomes more and more clear that any future shift in the construct of childhood needs to be made while looking through an international, holistic and modern lens.

 

A strong support network of community organizations can build a network of learning opportunities. I have dedicated my career thus far to working alongside stakeholders in designing and implementing programs that address their self-identified needs. It is fundamental to the sustainability of a solution that the people most directly affected by it believe in the solution’s ability to improve their lives. At the Spokane AIDS Network, I worked alongside a leadership team of young gay and bisexual men to design and implement three multi-level community wide HIV prevention interventions in three different states. At Odyssey Youth Movement, I worked with a team of LGBT youth to improve school climate district wide and worked with organization leadership and youth leadership to produce a sustainable development and engagement strategy. At Sesame Workshop India, I engaged participants in the development of programs and resources focused on expanding the organization’s impact and reach. When stakeholders are empowered to create a solution and measure its impact, the creation is infinitely more likely to succeed over time.

 

In my learnings, I have focused on better understanding three core areas of study. First, while working on my Children’s Studies degree at Eastern Washington University, I worked to better understand the functions and capacities of childhood as situated within a child’s environments. Second, while studying Human Development at the University of Pennsylvania I focused on better understanding the ways that a child’s environment influences their development. Finally, during my studies of International Educational Development, I focused my learnings on better understanding the ways that children learn formally, non-formally and informally with a specific focus on Low and Middle Income countries.

 

I believe in employing my learnings and using a modern, holistic and interdisciplinary approach to work alongside young people in challenging the systematic infrastructures of childhood. Doing so will spark a fundamental shift towards respecting children as active agents in their personal development and the development of their ecosystems. It is this shift that will inspire worldwide sustainable development and improve the lives of Earth’s youngest citizens.

© 2016 by Morgan Belveal. 

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