Special 50 years - The End of the 1980s and Youth Leadership

The year 1988 arrived for what was then still called the Emílio Odebrecht Foundation as yet another turning point in its history, which had been marked by the support of issues that interested the entire Brazilian population

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The year 1988 arrived for what was then still called the Emílio Odebrecht Foundation as yet another turning point in its history, which had been marked by the support of issues that interested the entire Brazilian population. During this period, Brazil was under the expectation that it would experience a phenomenon called the “Young Wave” between the years of 2005 and 2025: the population from 15 to 24 years of age would represent the majority in the country. Therefore, after several meetings and debates, the Board of Trustees concluded that it was time for yet another change in focus and operations: it would bring adolescents to the center of all its actions. It became clear that this is the phase in which the values, attitudes, behaviors and habits of the human being are developed. In order to ensure that the adolescent could face this “Wave,” he or she would need to be prepared for competent, solidary and responsible actions. It was necessary to see them as part of the solution and not the problem, emphasizing their potentials as opposed to their weaknesses – a vision that was later conceptualized, systematized and called Youth Leadership.

The first step that prompted this change in focus involved the reformulation of the Emílio Odebrecht Foundation Award, which, until then, was associated with the context of the Brazilian worker. The award was transformed into a social teaching instrument, one designed to encourage adolescents to reflect on relevant issues and produce educational materials focused on raising awareness and mobilizing society about these topics. In 1988, the contest involved more than 100,000 youth who addressed the topic of Sexual Responsibility During Adolescence and worked to develop productive, conscious and participative adolescents. During the same period, the foundation gathered together governmental and nongovernmental entities interested in 38 recovering the head office building at the Bahia School of Arts and Trades, a 100-year-old teaching institution in Salvador that caught fire in 1968 due to unknown reasons.

Bahia School of Arts and Trades: youth at a video workshop

For this new phase of the school, which was founded to qualify workers and handicraftsmen for the job market, the foundation invested its efforts not only on the physical remodeling aspects, but also on the implementation and development of unique programs for adolescents in the area of education, health and culture. For the foundation’s Supervisor at the time, Neylar Vilar Lins, “the main goal was to formulate a unique education model for life and for work.” And this is just what happened: after it was rebuilt, the school became a center with experimental workshops in the areas of sound and instruments, graphic arts, furniture and woodwork and computer classes, among others. 

Bahia School of Arts and Trades: youth at a video workshop Poster publicizing the campaign: “Only the school can fix Brazil”

In 1994, the foundation - a partner of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) - launched one of its most important campaigns focused on Brazilian adolescents, reaching 146 million people. Publicized on a national level through television channels and magazines, the campaign “Only the School Can Fix Brazil” brought the issue of education to the center of the political-electoral debate and alerted the population about the serious problems caused by the extremely high levels of grade repetition. Poster publicizing the campaign: “Only the school can fix Brazil” 39 In 1998, the campaign “Adolescent for a Better School” offered awards for the best proposals for school improvement presented by youth ages 13- 18. A total of 2,850 youth from 422 municipalities in 19 Brazilian states participated. Nine hundred and twenty-four works were presented. With adolescents as the beneficiaries of its projects, the foundation’s actions involved more than 500,000 youth and 12,000 educators during the period of 1988 to 1999. It established partnerships with 100 institutions that resulted in the production of 24 educational materials and the possibility to pursue over 40 projects.

Some Interesting Facts And Information:

1992 Receives the authorship rights over the projects that systematize the Odebrecht Entrepreneurial Technology (TEO), originating in one of its fronts of operations: the Editorial Program.

1994 Encourages the insertion of participative methodologies and emerging topics in the Minas Gerais State public education system with the Affective-Sexual Project.

1995 The Emílio Odebrecht Foundation changes its name to Odebrecht Foundation. During this same year, it also mobilized partners such as the Ayrton Senna Institute to support actions that could guarantee the entry and permanence of Bahia adolescents at school with the Discovery through Education Site Pact.

Presence That Continues To Mark History: 

Sergio Foguel is the member of the Odebrecht S.A. Board of Directors and member of the Odebrecht Foundation Board of Trustees. Between 1995 and 1998, he served as Chair of the foundation. When discussing the decision to put youth at the center of the supported actions, he stated the following during an interview for the No. 114 edition of Odebrecht Informa: “We identified adolescents as the focus of all the work, since it is during period of life that the ethical and cultural development of human beings is established.” 

Names That Have Been Historically Important:

From 1986 to 1992, Bruno Silveira occupied the position of Executive Director of the foundation and was one of the main proponents of making youth the focus of its operations. For him, bringing [the adolescent] as the target public was for a very clear reason: “Educating adolescents for life means working directly to ensure a better future,” said Silveira during an interview with the edition of Odebrecht Informa published in 1991.

Neylar Lins worked as the Supervisor of the foundation from 1992 to 2002. She was one of the first women to mark the institution’s history in the fight for better public policies. In 1994, she stated: “Preparing youth for life, encouraging the development of responsibility and social awareness, is one of the noblest contributions and also one with the most extensive multiplying effect that the foundation can offer to improve the quality of life of future generations.”

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