Harvard Educational Review
  1. Summer 2020 Issue »

    The EVAC Movement Story

    Why Youth Storytelling Is Powerful...and Why It’s Dangerous

    Alan McCullough Jr., Felton Morrell Jr., Bernard Thomas III, Vincente Waugh, Nicholas Shubert, and Amy Donofrio
    In this reflective essay, Alan McCullough Jr., Felton Morrell Jr., Bernard Thomas III, Vincente Waugh, and Nicholas Shubert with their teacher, Amy Donofrio, share the youth self-authorship methods that empowered them to transform their labels from “at-risk youth” to “at-hope youth leaders” in Jacksonville, Florida. After realizing that they had similar experiences with Jacksonville’s extreme violence and crime, they partnered to form the EVAC movement. The power of their shared stories led them from inviting officials to their classroom to hear their stories and collaborate for change to eventually speaking at the White House, meeting President Obama, making the front page of the New York Times, and presenting at Harvard University. In this reflection, the authors share how utilizing the power of youth storytelling in the context of a public school classroom can support youth to heal and lead community change, as well as the ways in which youth stories are dangerous—particularly to the systems of racism and oppression that their stories challenge.

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    Alan McCullough Jr. is a recent high school graduate and founding member of the EVAC Movement. He has presented at Harvard University and the White House, and his work with EVAC has been featured on PBS Newshour, Yahoo News, Dame magazine, and The Root. In November 2018 he garnered national attention when he bravely spoke out about being invalidly termed “gang affiliated” at the Jacksonville Fair simply based on wearing a necklace memorializing his deceased mother. In June 2019 he became the first person in his family to not only make it past ninth grade but to graduate high school. McCullough is currently using his story, along with his communication skills and writing gifts, in the sales world and to pursue his dreams in the music industry. While a major life goal is to instill hope in other youth, his top goal will always be to live a life that honors his beloved mother, Mallory Henry.

    Felton Morrell Jr. is a future high school teacher and a founding member of the EVAC Movement. He and his EVAC brothers presented their program at Harvard University, the White House, and to officials on both local and national levels. Since graduating in June 2018, Morrell has been committed to EVAC-ing the next generation by teaching in the same community he grew up in; he is presently a City Year Team Lead in a local ninth-grade English classroom. He is passionate about helping youth who have been left behind and hopes to find the resources to enroll in college as an education major so he can carry the torch as an EVAC teacher for the next generation of youth.

    Bernard Thomas III is a future social worker as well as a founder and executive board member of the EVAC Movement. As the second youngest in his family and the first to graduate high school, Thomas passionately believes in the power of public education and mentoring to create systemic change. He is currently a junior at Florida A&M University (FAMU), where he is on a full scholarship and majoring in social work and juvenile justice. He currently serves as a chair of FAMU’s Class Cabinet, is a member of FAMU Generation Action, and is an active and founding member of EVAC Movement’s Executive Board. He devotes his time to speaking out on issues of equity based on his unshakable belief that when given an equal opportunity, every person is capable of greatness. He dreams of running a nonprofit to help youth who have been left behind.

    Vincente Waugh is a senior in high school in Jacksonville, Florida, and founding member of the EVAC Movement. Beyond hosting numerous EVAC youth roundtables with Jacksonville officials, he has represented EVAC nationally, including presentations in Washington, DC, and twice at Harvard University. He uses his experiences with racism, violence, and homelessness, as well as his status as the son of immigrants, to inform policy makers on needed changes for youth. He is passionate about eliminating racial disparity in both the justice system as well as in the business world, but his chief passion is using his experiences to instill hope in other youth. In addition to advocacy work, he is a self-taught entrepreneur, social media marketer, and the CEO of two tech businesses. He hopes to pursue business and marketing at the University of North Florida and ultimately build businesses that can give back to youth like him.

    Nicholas Shubert is a founding member of the EVAC Movement. His bravery in sharing his story and his vision for change lit a spark that ignited a movement. He believes in speaking truth to power with words that come from the heart, whether he is speaking with local youth or presenting at Harvard University, as he did in March 2020. His dream is to use his story and communication gifts to pursue his dream of mentoring youth in his own community in order to bring justice to those who others leave behind. He plans to dedicate his life to instilling hope in other youth in honor of the hope instilled in him by his grandmother, Ms. Barbara Watkins.

    Amy Donofrio has been an educator for twelve years. She is the founder of the EVAC Movement, which began in her public school classroom in Jacksonville, Florida, when her students realized their shared experiences with violence and crime and decided to use them to create change. Donofrio has a BA in English education and an MA in literacy education, but her true education came from her students. She passionately believes that public schools are ground zero in the effort to bring equity and justice to our most at-hope youth. She and her students shared EVAC’s journey via a 2017 TEDx Talk titled “At-Risk or At-Hope: How We Label Youth Matters.”
  2. Summer 2020 Issue


    Youth Voices in Education Research
    Editors’ Introduction
    Becca Spindel Bassett and Tatiana Geron

    Book Notes

    Girlhood in the Borderlands
    Lilia Soto

    The Heart of the Matter
    Peer Group Connection Students at Morris Academy for Collaborative Studies