"Part Time" embodies the power of Public Achievement

Kira Pasquesi is coordinator of the Partnership for Civic Engagement at Colorado College and works with students from the college who coach Public Achievement at Wasson High School. She finds powerful motivation in working with young people.

His high school peers and teachers called him “Part Time.” He only attended classes when he felt like it or when it was convenient, and he had no hope of graduating.

I met “Part Time” while coordinating the Public Achievement program at Wasson High School in Colorado Springs, Colo. Two social studies teachers had seen beyond the nickname and enrolled him in the program.

Pasquesi_Kira.JPGKira Pasquesi, at right

“Part Time” participated in a small group focused on the issue of violence in their community. One student and a recent alumna from the high school were killed in acts of violence and the Public Achievement group wanted to take a stand on behalf of their classmates.

The group planned and executed an assembly in loving memory of their friends and debriefed the losses alongside two coaches from Colorado College. Over 500 high school students attended and heard how they have the power to stop the violence impacting their community. The families of the two classmates told their stories as guest speakers. At the end of the assembly, students signed a pledge against violence and each student received a pledge card to remind them of the message.

“Part Time” made this assembly possible. He excelled at motivating his group members to be accountable, contacting community members and organizations, and leading meetings with school administrators, among many other skills. Soon after beginning the program, “Part Time” began attending class on Public Achievement days and started to believe he could graduate from high school after all. This pattern of attendance quickly filtered into the remainder of his classes after the non-violence assembly. While he had heard from others and reinforced for himself that he could not succeed in the traditional classroom environment, he found a new found confidence through Public Achievement and his public work. Peers and teachers called him Jared for his senior year of high school and he graduated this May.

Jared is my motivation for continuing this work. There are many more “Part Timers” in this world and I truly believe in the power of Public Achievement. Thank you to all the coaches, organizers, and coordinators out there that impact the lives of our students and communities. I urge you to think of your motivating stories often and share them with those around you.

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs