In 2012, Public Education Network (PEN) closed its doors after 21 years. PEN was a network of local education funds (LEFs) -- community based organizations in high poverty school districts across the United States -- that continue to work with their school districts and communities to improve public education for the nation's most disadvantaged children.

At the national level, PEN raised the importance of public engagement as an essential component of education reform. It brought the voice of LEFs and the communities they represent into the national education debate. Finally, PEN gave voice to the essential nature of the connection between quality public education and a healthy and thriving democracy.

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Community Counts: How Youth Organizations Matter for Youth Development

March 29, 2000

Our research reports numerous accomplishments and successes of active young people engaged in community organizations. Of greatest importance for society is the compelling evidence from the experiences of these youth that community-based organizations (CBOs) can play a critical role in meeting the needs of today's young people. They can fill the gap left by families and schools that are stretched to capacity to provide supports to young people. One of the most appealing aspects of these CBOs is that they give young people the opportunity to engage in positive activities, to develop close and caring relationships, and to find value in themselves -- even in the face of personal disruption, poor schools, and neighborhoods generally devoid of supports.The impressive accomplishments of these young people from diverse communities around the country warrant community action. Community-based organizations offer a means for reaching youth and they can have a significant impact on the skills, attitudes, and experiences youth need to take their places as confident, contributing adults.