Join Ashley Kennedy for an in-depth discussion in this video Lessons learned in Arne Duncan's career, part of Arne Duncan Interview: Education and Reducing Violence.
- Yeah, this work is um, it is fascinating, it's inspiring, it's really hard, it's heartbreaking, it's beyond humbling, and the lessons that the guys are teaching me and my team every single day are unbelievable, and these are men we're working with not boys, not little kids. I say all the time we are co-designing with them and if something's working great we'll keep going and do more. If something's not working please stop us, we'll do something else. And their willingness to be so honest and real with us has been hugely helpful.
So we've made lots of mistakes, lots of hard lessons. What's most surprised me, a couple things. These are tough guys, these guys who have been through a lot. I didn't begin to realize when we started, it's been true in almost every cohort, that about a third of our guys are basically homeless. I just, I don't know why, I just sort of assumed that they would have a roof over their heads. And our first cohort we had a guy living on a porch, we had a guy living out of his car, lots of guys couch surfing, and so the housing piece, the need for housing stability, totally underestimated that, and we've done a lot in that space, but we're not doing enough, and we have to continue to do more.
Our guys aren't future leaders. They're leaders now and what they're doing, not just within the cohorts, but on their blocks, in their neighborhoods, is extraordinary and just continue to find ways to empower them, put them in positions to again, lead the city where we need to go. We can't do enough of that. Some of the things we talked about earlier, just the need for self expression, and the artistic piece of this, going in, didn't fully appreciate how important that was.
The level of trauma, so much talk about post traumatic stress disorder. This is present, this is current, this is everyday. That part is hard and we're doing tons in terms of counseling and therapy, but I know we're not doing enough there. Understand that there's no straight line of transformation. You can have two, three, four good days, or three or four good weeks, and then something just unimaginable happens in a guys life and we take a big step backwards, but just continuing to walk with them and work through those hard times is hugely important.
We never quit on a guy. We never kick them out of the program. There's definitely tough love. We can suspend, we'll challenge guys, and we have done that and we'll continue to do that. But it's amazing, I don't think we've ever had a guy quit on us. Which is sort of an, you know, in terms of like, just walking away, or saying this isn't for me. I can't actually think of one guy yet who's done that. And again, I just give them so much credit for trusting us, and we have to earn that trust every single day, but just their desire for something better.
And at the end of the day again, that's why I'm most hopeful for all the challenges, is I've seen their hearts, I've seen their commitment, I see how hard they're working, and they are the reason that I'm so hopeful.