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LEARN - look. educate. act. renew. now

This idea is the creation of educational programs that will function as bridges between student and community needs, in underserved resource poor communities. By focusing on identifying local needs and opportunities, educational programs can be created for youth that train them in specific skills needed for employment, enabling them to achieve economic stability as they contribute to the development of their local communities.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
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               LEARN  -  look. educate. act. renew. now

   This idea is to develop educational programming that will serve to prepare students in underserved communities for employment in areas identified as a need, and an opportunity for development, within their communities.  

Can we look into communities and find built in opportunities for work and development?  Can we build programs into the curricula of high schools, and local community colleges, that bridge the gap between education, local opportunity, and community need?
The challenge brief highlights the educational programming at
The New York Harbor School on Governor’s Island, in New York City's harbor.  The students at this school participate in the Billion Oyster Project - BOP.  The BOP is both a green jobs training program for NYC youth and a habitat restoration project with benefits for the entire region.  Oysters are the keystone species and original ecosystem engineer of the New York Harbor.  You can read about this project here.  The beauty of this project is that it identified a need for the greater community - an environmental need for NYC's water ecosystem - and a an opportunity to educate and employ youth to service this need.  The school becomes a bridge between the two.
What needs can be identified in underserved communities?  What educational opportunities can we develop to bridge the needs of the community and the need for youth to find good jobs?

Can development such as this create employment opportunities for students as they work towards a certificate/degree?
In this way can students in low income communities achieve some degree of economic stability while they are in school on their path to full time employment?

I.  Urban Farming 
Can students be trained to develop urban farms?  Can this become a source of employment as well as nutritious local food for the community?  What ancillary jobs can be created?  Marketing? Tech jobs? Transportation jobs? Education jobs? Is there a place here for local students to become entrepreneurs?  Can this be an opportunity for students to work to develop technology to service a growing industry? What apps and websites will these businesses need?

Detroit, Michigan
Urban Blight - Open Lots

Urban Farming  -  Urban farming in Detroit 

Urban Garden - A building in downtown Detroit was demolished and a local corporation developed an urban garden in it's place.  Food grown there is being donated to a local community.

II.  Historic Preservation
There are many American cities in which large numbers of citizens left the downtown areas moving out to suburban communities.  Businesses closed.  Economically vulnerable families were left behind with little opportunity for employment and often a poor education system.  Some of these areas continue to struggle without development.  Some are being discovered and slowly gentrified due to housing stock that is often much lower than market in the surrounding areas.  What are the development opportunities?  What educational programs can be put in place that will provide training for local youth to serve identified economic development projects? Can students be trained in historic preservation so that local areas can be reclaimed, buildings preserved?  Can jobs be created in construction,  carpentry, preservation, planning?  What tech jobs can accompany this?  What other jobs will become part of this system? 

Hudson River Town

A few blocks away

Who does this idea benefit, who are the main players and what's in it for them?

This idea benefits youth in underserved communities where educational resources are often lacking, employment opportunities are limited, and families live in poverty. The idea also benefits the entire community as jobs are created and local youth are educated to gain the skills to fill them. This could be funded by local government or non profits involved in city planning or economic development. For profit companies may also be interested as a skilled workforce will be able to build the local economy. Depending on the actual business plan the local business created may have a customer base outside of the local community which may be of interest to for-profit businesses as well.

How is your idea specifically increasing access to employment opportunities and pathways for young people?

Participation in a program that targets specific community needs will serve to employ local youth, build the local economy, and build the community. Rather than continue the cycle of poor education leading to lack of opportunity and poverty, communities will strengthen as local youth contribute to their neighborhoods as workers and consumers. Businesses will come back into the communities as there will be a better economic base. This in turn will lead to a larger tax base, improved resources in schools, and more employment opportunities for youth going forward.

The idea emerged from:

  • A group brainstorm

How do you envision your idea being implemented?

  • I'm more throwing the idea out there to inspire potential implementers


Join the conversation:

Photo of David

Hi Bettina! Really nice to see this, and glad that it has incorporated my contribution. I'd be happy to collaborate!

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Thanks David! Terrific! All ideas are welcome! I am adding you to the team!

Photo of Meena Kadri

Sounds exciting, Bettina. Do you have thoughts on a lightweight experiment to test assumptions with potential end users in the picture? You can add them directly to our submission form question by hitting the Update Entry button. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

Photo of Sergio Marrero


I love the example of neighborhood gardens in Detroit that used to be open lots. That is great. Are you centrally focused on Detroit for this idea? I heard the Kresge Foundation supports lots of development in Detroit. Have you connected with them?

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Sergio.
No I am not focusing on Detroit. I am based in NYC but have visited Detroit several times to visit a family member. It is a surreal landscape. With our society's focus on local food production I think urban farming might be a viable option for an industry there. I chose it as an example of something that may fill a gap for youth employment if an educational program is developed for youth there.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

and thanks for the link. I will check it out. It may lead to other ideas!

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Meena - I don't yet have an experiment in mind however I do have many assumptions - hence time to get on it! thanks. I may have some help with this...