Based in Providence, R.I., What Kids Can Do (WKCD) is a national nonprofit founded in 2001 by an educator and a journalist with more than 60 years combined experience supporting adolescent learning in and out of school. Using digital, print, and broadcast media, WKCD presses before the broadest audience possible a dual message: the power of what young people can accomplish when given the opportunities and supports they need and what they can contribute when we take their voices and ideas seriously. The youth who concern WKCD most are those marginalized by poverty, race, and language, ages 12 to 22.
While other organizations share WKCD’s message and commitments, our strategies and style are unique. We view young people as active collaborators in every phase of our work. We bring local stories, voices, and resources to international attention and vice versa. We speak to influential adults and young people alike. We document the good work of others as well as sponsoring our own projects. We bring a thirst for peace and justice to all of our pursuits.
In 2005, WKCD launched its own publishing company, Next Generation Press, which develops and distributes books with youth voice at their center. Next Generation Press has published over 15 books (with over 150,00 copies in print). In addition, WKCD develops books for publication by other publishers. Two books, Fires in the Bathroom: Advice for Teachers from High School Students (The New Press, 2003) and Fires in the Mind: What Kids Can Tell Us About Motivation and Mastery (Jossey-Bass, 2010), both by WKCD writer Kathleen Cushman, have been best sellers in teacher education.
In the fall of 2010, WKCD began its Center for Youth Voice in Policy and Practice, a virtual center that showcases the power of youth as researchers, knowledge creators, and activists—real contributors to public discussions about policy and practice.
WKCD also works with youth internationally on photo documentary/photo essay projects in: Bangalore and Delhi, India; the Czech Republic; Beijing; Ethiopia; Hungary; Japan; London; Romania; South Africa. Our youth collaborators have included Afro-Caribbean and Muslim immigrants in London, teenage slum dwellers in Delhi, and gypsy youth in Romania.
In every aspect of its work, What Kids Can Do relies on strategic partnerships with:
These partnerships provide the ideas, stories, student work, tools, and support that animate What Kids Can Do. At the same time, WKCD adds visibility to the efforts of these allies, many of whom have worked for years to expand prevailing notions of what constitutes powerful learning and achievement for young people.
The following contributors have provided invaluable funds, inspiration, and connections:
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Bronx New Century High Schools
Forum for Youth Investment
Jobs for the Future
Lumina Foundation for Excellence
McCormick Tribune Foundation
Nellie Mae Education Foundation
Rural School and Community Trust
The New Press
The Northeast and Islands Regional Education Lab at Brown
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
W.K. Kellogg Foundation
News of WKCD and the work of the youth and educators we support have generated over 250 articles in local and national newspapers, from The New York Times to the Sacramento Bee. We have appeared with our youth collaborators on radio stations across the country. We have published articles about our work in close to two dozen professional journals and magazines. Our Next Generation Press books have sparked reviews in newspapers like the Los Angeles Times, education publications like Teacher's College Press, and trade journals like News Photographer.
WKCD has also provided background material and stories for a wide range of print and broadcast media, including PBS, Jane Pauley Show, Today Show, Lehrer Report, Utne Reader, Salon.com, U.S. News and World Report, People's Magazine, Education Week, and The Chronicle of Philanthropy-along with fielding regular calls from education reporters.
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“There’s a radical—and wonderful—new idea here… that all children could and should be inventors of their own theories, critics of other people’s ideas, analyzers of evidence, and makers of their own personal marks on the world.”
– Deborah Meier, educator