Youth Find Life Choices

The beginning: one table at one high school in DeKalb County, Georgia, in 2008.

Now, thousands of students at fifteen high schools in Atlanta, DeKalb and Fulton Counties have discovered post high school options to military service. Hundreds of parents, educators and community members have enjoyed spoken-word and music concerts and viewed thought-provoking art created by youth.  And dozens of high schoolers are learning how to “be the change” they want to see via grassroots organizing.

These projects show the expansion of the Atlanta AFSC’s Student Career Alternatives Program (SCAP), guided by Tim Franzen and aided by a dozen volunteers. From single tables at career fairs to a packed shuttle bus, and from one alternatives guide to a 10-week “Be The Change” curriculum, SCAP has touched 20,000 students in Georgia.

Cross Keys High School’s student body had a large proportion of undocumented youth—a demographic heavily recruited by the military.  Through SCAP and AFSC’s “It’s My Life” publication, the students learned about community service, environmental careers, and other non-military choices. Their enthusiastic response snowballed as educators recognized SCAP’s relevance for students who weren’t  college bound but wanted something beyond minimum-wage jobs or enlisting.

After its roll-out, SCAP subsequently moved to Tri Cities High School, Fulton County.  Counselors there promoted the visit a month in advance and scheduled half-hour appointments with the SCAP team. “We were given the opportunity to really talk about how and why SCAP started, and ways in which the prison and military industrial complexes impact our bodies, minds and communities,” Tim wrote in the blog <http://afscatlanta.blogspot.com.

Tim also notes, “Our aim is to change the overall culture of militarism.  To do that, we’re cultivating youth groups outside school hours, organizing three concerts under the SCAP banner, and sponsoring the second “It’s My Life” art contest in spring 2011.”   

To broaden SCAP’s impact, Tim is collaborating with AFSC staff in seven other cities on a new project to lift up the voices of undocumented high school youth through “safe space” events.