In January, Youth Initiative High School in Viroqua was selected as one of the world’s best “Changemaker Schools” by Ashoka, a global association of social entrepreneurs with operations in 80 countries. After being nominated for the prestigious award in 2014, YIHS faculty and students successfully advanced through a series of site visits and interviews with education experts from Europe, Latin America and United States. When their election was announced last month they became the first high school in the U.S. to join the global network of 120 schools from 20 countries.
YIHS was founded in 1996 by local students and adult allies to be a school that was academically challenging, respectful of individual freedom and dignity, and rooted in a meaningful sense of community and shared responsibility. Nearly 20 years later, the school community has grown to more than 80 faculty and students. Hallmarks of a Youth Initiative education include: direct involvement in the decision-making processes of the school, service and connection to the local community and environment, a rigorous and creative curriculum, and cross-cultural awareness.
Youth Initiative High School, like all the Changemaker Schools elected by Ashoka since 2013, was recognized for excellence in ensuring young people master the skills most critical for success in the world today: empathy, teamwork and changemaking.
“The most fundamental revolution today – analogous to the civil rights movement or the women’s movement – is the one centered on how young people grow up,” said Bill Drayton, Ashoka’s founder and CEO. In a world that is increasing interconnected, complex and inequitable, the founder of Ashoka insists that young people must have education experiences like those at YIHS so that “they will hit adulthood knowing they are powerful and can contribute.”
Learn more about Ashoka’s Changemaker School program at startempathy.org.