Rachel Floyd Nelson Supporting Youth for Success in a Global Economy

Past Rotary of Atlanta West End President, Ms. Rachel Floyd Nelson, spoke to our club on October 25. In her day job as an official for decades at the U.S. Department of Labor and from the perspective of her home in the city of Lumberton, Robinson County, North Carolina, Rachel saw firsthand the economic and resulting social devastation that was about to come because of globalization through the then new North American Free Trade Treaty - NAFTA. Jobs were lost because of the inability to compete on the international stage. The social and emotional toll was and still is devastating because ways of income and standards of living were lost, crushing to many-a-family. She knew one person laid off after decades of faithful work literally thinking about going to his job place and shooting it up – probably not the only one. Nevertheless, Rachel, as a realist, understood the ‘goal posts’ had moved, and she saw opportunities possible beyond the tragic upheaval from within to a new way. So, she knew/knows youth - not just adults – need to reinvent themselves, especially those whose frames of reference are so narrow given their relatively sheltered and deprived lives. She realizes that defining youth by a traditional age must also change – extending youth to 35 years - why? Because their closed-end views of the world and limited exposure require more time to get the picture. But how does she enable youth to become marketable, independent of old constraints and adaptable? She personally encountered the need for such adaptation as a first-in-her-family-to-go-to-college … she knows the feelings of living in uncharted waters yet hardly able to swim at all – but she must/did. So now she’s on a 20+-year quest to enable kids to think and see and feel in an international economic context, despite the limited confines of unintentionally sheltered childhoods. She explained other realities of the USA’s measly 320M residents finding a way in a world of 7.7B people: 300M vs. 7.7B! Bridge-building and unorthodox partnerships must be at front of mind because the opportunities exist, awaiting – but not for very long – youth’s discovery, invention and reinvention – hence Rachel’s determination to promote new thinking housed within entrepreneurship. Here youth need to push, be pushed and be supported so their natural creative juices flow and benefit – how to build the talent pipeline so it keeps inventing and birthing/rebirthing itself from within those historically left behind and excluded. Rachel’s mission with/for/of youth demands new mindsets for teacher-leaders, teacher development, even new ways for early childhood learning, certainly no place for ‘daycare’! Hers is a voice not heard enough and an eye looking where others do not see. “Join me!” is her message.

Posted by Neil Shorthouse
October 18, 2019 2:00pm