Our Mission & Programs Rethink embodies an idea that is as dynamic as it is simple: give young people—even those as young as middle school—a voice in public school reform. Our mission is to support low income students, particularly youth of color, to: (1) become thoughtful, capable leaders for today as well as tomorrow; (2) "rethink" the public school experience and push for school specific as well as system‐wide change; (3) build a new generation of leaders who practice "power among" their peers rather than power over" them.
Rethink conducts two major programs: (1) the Rethink School‐based Clubs, in six low‐performing public elementary schools, and (2) the Rethink Citywide Program, comprising an intensive summer school, a national speakers' bureau, and five action committees that meet during after school hours and weekends: School Food Justice; Architecture/Oil‐free Schools; the Rethink Garden; Digital Media; and Restorative Justice. Rethink serves a primarily middle school population, but our membership includes youth from ages 8‐18. Through our two programs, youth are challenged to think critically about and become engaged in the world they know best: their own schools.
Our Impact The impact of Rethink has been exponential. To date, tangible changes in schools credited to Rethink organizing and advocacy include: (1) repair of 350 substandard bathrooms; (2) elimination of "sporks" in most school cafeterias in favor of forks, knives and spoons; (3) installation of hand‐washing sinks in all new school cafeterias; (4) the addition of garden plots to all future school designs; (5) significantly more fresh food in school cafeterias starting in September 2010; (6) agreement from the Recovery School District (RSD) Superintendent to launch a pilot project in an elementary school that will instill restorative justice practices as an alternative to suspension and expulsion; and (7) the voice of New Orleans youth heard all over the U.S. via speeches at conferences and media coverage that has drawn 10,000 people. In May 2012, HBO featured the Rethinkers in a documentary film, The Great Cafeteria Takeover, as part of "The Weight of the Nation," a multi‐part public health series. In July 2012, The Great Cafeteria Takeover was nominated for an Emmy Award. Rethink's proudest accomplishment, now widely acknowledged, is to have secured a seat at the education reform table in post‐Katrina New Orleans.
Various books profile the work of the Rethinkers, including Food Justice, by Robert Gottlieb and Anupama Joshi (2010), Collective Visioning: How Groups Can Work Together for a Just and Sustainable Future, by Linda Stout (2011), and How to Rebuild a City: Notes from a Work in Progress, by Anne Gisleson and Tristan Thompson (2010), Ecoliterate: How Educators Cultivate Emotional, Social and Ecological Intelligence by Daniel Goleman (2012). In 2010, the Rethinkers published their first book, Feet to the Fire: The Rethinkers' Guide to Changing Your School.
To learn more about our work, please visit our website: www.TheRethinkers.com