Blair Taylor, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League (LAUL), works hard every day to empower young people and get them connected to their community. A huge part of his job is ensuring schools that schools are able to challenge kids and open their minds to the world around them.
Taylor says teens learn best from experience. Offering them opportunities to travel or interact with people from other walks of life can help them realize their place in the world and can even inspire youth from low-income or troubled neighborhoods to remain focused on school.
“We’ve worked with the local high school to engage parents and teachers in a way that would keep students more actively involved, and we’ve increased graduation rates by more than 50 percent in the last three years.”
While getting students to think globally is beneficial, Taylor also ensures that the students’ own communities are not lost in the grand thinking.
Part of the LAUL’s plan to engage the community from the bottom up is the Neighborhoods@Work model, which focuses on transforming urban areas one neighborhood at a time.
Taylor laments the fact that up until now, “we have not done a very good job of empowering those communities.” Whether it’s by empowering schools to determine curriculum’s that fit the specific needs of their unique student body or by empowering a community to protect and police itself, LAUL’s focus is clearly long-term.
“Having a community-based organization that’s on the ground leading the effort as opposed to someone who parachutes in from outside the community, I think is a big part of what 21st century urban solutions need to look like,” said Taylor.