Vern Reed of “The Corners” at West Burlington Jr./Sr. High School in Iowa sent me a great video of two of his Investigations students adding their voices to a public forum. Check it out!

Background from Vern Reed

Our night class (Investigations into Economic Class in America) kids help with these town hall meetings hosted at our public library every month. There are two state representatives in attendance, one from each side of the aisle, who answer questions, share ideas, etc.

A part of the discussion focused on people/teens migrating from Chicago to Southeast Iowa. One speaker indicated that he believed teens did not care about education and went on to make some other statements that stereotyped people, especially those caught in generational poverty. These comments struck a nerve with both of our teens, and they felt moved to contribute to the conversation.

The students are addressing a room full of adults, including two state representatives, and they are speaking totally off the cuff. They would not have felt empowered enough a year ago to do this.


Skip to 21:40 to hear the Investigations students.

My response

Dear Investigations into Economic Class in America students of West Burlington,

This morning I watched a video of two of you speaking to your state legislators at a public town hall meeting. I am very impressed that you did this. It’s a little terrifying to speak publicly, especially about issues that are painful and personal.

Your courage and your willingness to attempt to educate your local politicians is exactly what this country needs more of. It’s so easy for politicians to stereotype and blame people for the circumstances into which they were born. It’s so easy for them never to “see and hear” what real people deal with every day.

You changed that! Congratulations!

And I noticed that the one representative stopped getting up to respond to speakers after you two spoke. That means you got the politician to stop talking and listen! This is truly astonishing!

Phil Devol and I wrote Investigations into Economic Class in America for the explicit purpose for helping people stabilize their lives. When people make informed choices, they gain access to power. It was so great to see that happening right there in the video!

I hope that town hall meeting was just the beginning of your civic engagement. Was it fun to access that power? Do you feel any differently about yourselves having done so? I’d love to hear from you!

Karla Krodel is coauthor of Understanding and Engaging Under-Resourced College Students and the Investigations into Economic Class in America curriculum low-income and first-generation college students. She runs the Metro Credit Education and Outreach Office at Youngstown State University and administers several programs targeting under-resourced populations, including students who are incarcerated. An experienced consultant, Karla has been with aha! Process since 2008.