Working with the White House to Solve Problems

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Working with the White House to Solve Problems

Event addresses current issues, proposes solutions

AUSTIN, Texas
Before she enrolled at The University of Texas at Austin in 2006, Michelle Castillo faced an uphill battle. Feeling pressured by her family to remain in the Rio Grande Valley, Castillo – a first-generation college student – had to look outside her family for educational and career guidance.
 

Six years later, after graduating with a bachelor's degree in government and Mexican American Studies, Castillo helps other first-generation students and their families navigate the college application process.

Hoping to meet young leaders committed to public service and civic engagement, Castillo signed up for the White House Youth Town Hall, which took place on April 10 at KLRU Studio 6A. Hosted by The White House Office of Public Engagement and the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation at The University of Texas at Austin's College of Communication, the Town Hall provided a forum for about 200 young Americans between the ages of 16 and 30 to discuss current issues and work toward actionable solutions. Sponsorship support came from the U.S. Department of Education and the Millennium Momentum Foundation Inc.

Castillo delivered one of seven presentations that highlighted success stories from the community. She spoke about her work as a college advisor through Advise TX College Advising Corps, where she has helped high school students from the Rio Grande Valley make college education a reality.

"I believe that education and social justice are tightly bound," Castillo said at the event. "I believe that education is the key to the success of our country and our communities."

Other presentations addressed how to:

  • Increase voting numbers
  • Collaborate with architects to accomplish civic initiatives
  • Work towards immigration reform
  • Improve access to education and technology
  • Share stories of progress through social media
  • Grow an organization from one campaign to the next

 

White House Youth Town Hall

Hosted by The White House Office of Public Engagement and the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation at The University of Texas at Austin's College of Communication, the Town Hall provided a forum for about 200 young Americans between the ages of 16 and 30 to discuss current issues.

Storified by UT CoC · Mon, Apr 16 2012 15:31:46

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RT @RonnieCho: I love you Austin, you always show me a good time! Thank you @WhiteHouseUT @UTAustin for a great event! #whsummit #hookemhornsKate Stotesbery
My story on the White House Young American Series at UT last night @RonnieCho @whitehouseUT | The Daily Texan: http://bit.ly/I4mBSuAlexa Ura
Inspiring energy last night at the @whitehouseut summit - see the @Alcalde coverage here! http://txex.es/IGwHd6 @UTCommRose
Made new friends, learned about new organizations, great event!! @WhiteHouseUT @abbabyut @rachelzummo @grrlforfashion #WHSummitKaty Hamill
@sveaface asks "how do we move beyond this? how will you spread this to your important network, @RonnieCho #whsummitWhiteHouseUT
“@WhiteHouseUT Entrepreneurship group encourages mentorship pre-college. They are creating an FB group from today's meeting. #whsummit”Kenneth Williams
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@WhiteHouseUT Great conversations with great future leaders. It's our time! #WHsummitClarissa Garza
Don't miss the White House Young American Series happening now at #UT! WATCH: http://communication.utexas.edu/strauss/white-house-young-america-series PARTICIPATE: @whitehouseUT #WHSummitKVR News
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Discussing the changing business model of digital media. Very engaging, great opinions #WHsummitBryan Shaffar
Great conversation going on about entrepreneurship resources in #WHsummit w @BrianLFontenot join us at group 2 & 4Pablo Medina
Break out! #whsummit @WhiteHouseUT http://pic.twitter.com/vkOVTUXrRonnie Cho
Received this picture of the Young America Series in Austin - fantastic full house! #WHSummit http://pic.twitter.com/MbbK5jMyJon Carson
#whsummit is now trending in #Austin http://trendsmap.com/us/austinTrendsmap Austin
#whsummit moves into discussion groups to brainstorm about issues and concerns.WhiteHouseUT
RT @getaholdofryan: #whsummit @WhiteHouseUT Education is the foundation of a democratic nation. #solidaritywitheducatorsRonnie Cho
Shine a Light on progress. Find positivity in every situation. The world is changing... don't be a passerby. #getinvolved #care #WHSummitAvantika Krishna
"With ganas, or perseverance, anything is possible" - #MichelleCastillo #WHSummitLa Andi
I'm glad I came to the #whsummit today- these presentations are great! I'm proud to have such passionate peers. Hooray for my generation!Rachel Zummo
RT @grrlforfashion: TED style talks at #WHsummit are the bomb. @whitehouseutWhiteHouseUT
We can solve the achievement gap with technology! I agree. Our society is exponentially moving towards tech! #whsummitLora Chowdhury
@austintexasgov RT @UDems: We are proud of a White House that is proactively engaging youth, especially here in Austin... #whsummit #TexasKelsey R Crow
RT @lamd86: Sustainability architecture and civic engagement all need each other to make a difference @whitehouseut #whsummitWhiteHouseUT
RT @johnrnixon: #WHSummit connecting youth participants to share specific tools to amplify & leverage community solutions; LIVE now http://livestre.am/1mkrpWhiteHouseUT
RT @jaime_garcia13: @WhiteHouseUT Architecture students: The new face of civic engagement? #whsummitWhiteHouseUT
RT @LoraChowdhury: Listening to an amazing architecture major speak about his projects! Architects are vital! #whsummitJoshua Tang
@WhiteHouseUT "You have to be rejected 11-15 times for real change to happen" -- @MattGlazer #WHsummit #justkeepswimmingLeah Rose Spector
"It's not about moving left or right; it's about moving forward. It's not about 2012; it's about 2112." - @ronniecho @whitehouseut #whsummitRachel Zummo
@WhiteHouseUT empowering us to bust stereotypes of youth disengagement #whsummit http://pic.twitter.com/R0Q0Ae1aMelissa Huebsch
We're here! @KTSW_899 @KTSWNews @NewPolitixForum @WhiteHouseUT #WHSummit http://pic.twitter.com/5Hy97E47KTSW News
RT @RonnieCho: Couldnt have picked a better venue for the White House Young America Series! @whitehouseUT #WHSummit #hookemhorns http://pic.twitter.com/lAS5KtHcKelsey R Crow
White House Young American Series tonight live from UT WATCH ONLINE http://communication.utexas.edu/strauss/white-house-young-america-series PARTICIPATE VIA TWITTER @whitehouseUT #WHSummitKVR News
RT @RonnieCho: Getting ready for show time! @whitehouseUT #whsummit http://pic.twitter.com/F3MetzWaUT CoC
I'm excited to talk tonight about @StudentsOTWorld for the White House Young American Series! @WhiteHouseUTKate Simpson
Looking forward to engaging conversation & participation today. Hook 'em! @whitehouseUT @RonnieCho #whsummit #hookemKelsey R Crow

 

A Capitol Connection

After speaking at the Strauss Institute's New Politics Forum in November, Ronnie Cho – associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and the president's liaison to young Americans – said he was impressed by University of Texas at Austin students.

"I was struck by the high level of activism and commitment to civic engagement and public service from the students I met in Austin," Cho said. "My experience then helped inspire this effort to provide a platform for young Americans to articulate a vision for our country where everyone does their fair share, everyone gets a fair shake and hard work and responsibility are rewarded."

Cho selected The University of Texas at Austin as the fourth stop on a list of 17 U.S. universities that would host a White House Youth Town Hall. The Strauss Institute began accepting applications for event participants and audience members in early March. Applicants who wished to present were asked to highlight issues or problems that they wanted to address.

Through the Town Halls, Cho said he hopes to assemble the brightest young minds to discuss important issues and create solutions to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

"President Obama knows that we have to invest in our young people and give them the skills they need to succeed now and in the decades to come," Cho said. "…But perhaps most importantly, President Obama believes that the answers to our toughest challenges lie within the American people. No one embodies this better than the young Americans like the ones here in Austin that are working every day to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build our competition."  

Working to Create More Informed, Engaged and Effective Citizens

As with other Strauss Institute events and outreach programs, the White House Youth Town Hall worked to create more informed, engaged and effective citizens, said Regina Lawrence, Faculty Fellow of the Strauss Institute and the Jesse H. Jones Centennial Chair in Communication at the School of Journalism.

"The Institute's goal was to convene an event in which young people can discuss the issues facing their communities in a nonpartisan and respectful way," Lawrence said. "This event was an eye-opening experience of young participants meeting, learning from and being inspired by one another as they became more deeply engaged in solving problems."

The Institute's mission is strictly nonpartisan, working within communities to engage people in the political process, teaching them about the nation's democratic heritage and encouraging them to take leadership roles.

Demonstrating the power of social media, the Strauss Institute projected a Twitter livestream behind the stage. Two onstage volunteers Tweeted via the @whitehouseUT handle and responded to comments that referenced #whsummit. By 5:15 p.m., Trendsmap had reported #whsummit as a trending Twitter topic in Austin.

The Strauss Institute also livestreamed the event through its website, which reached individual viewers, as well watch parties hosted by six high schools and seven universities across Texas.

Open Space Process

After the seven presentations, Cho invited audience members on stage to pitch issues that were important to them. Twenty-five people pitched issues, each forming discussion groups that would convene across the hall in KLRU Studio 6B.

Audience members pitched discussion topics, such as:

  • The importance of entrepreneurship to the future of the U.S. and world
  • The national debt
  • Drug policy reform
  • Food security and access
  • The ONE campaign, which fights poverty and preventable disease
  • Funding for arts programs

For an hour and a half, groups discussed their respective issues while "knowledge capture agents" recorded the conversations on poster boards. Cho then will sift through the information, bringing proposed solutions to the White House.

"...The most powerful solutions so far have come from participants that have forged new relationships and synergies with people outside of their immediate network," Cho said. "School teachers and social entrepreneurs coming together to find creative ways to help improve education for kids… Agriculture studies majors and political science students developing strategies on how to start a sustainability initiative on campus... Young business owners and community leaders working on ways to strengthen business development in underserved areas... These grassroots approaches to the issues impacting our communities are the real drivers of change and the White House wants to promote, support and empower their work."


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Media Contact:
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