by Imana Legette, Director of Diversity and Inclusion
Student leadership is a key component of a Penn Charter education and enhancing learning and leadership opportunities for students is one of the strategies in Goal 2 of our Strategic Vision.
We encourage students to take on leadership roles in all areas of their experiences. The students who attended the People of Color Conference/Student Diversity Leadership Conferences (SDLC) in Tampa this year have done just that.
The SDLC leaders createdmini-workshops for Lower, Middle and Upper School facultyand led them during the division faculty meetings. Each workshop consisted of a silent movement activity. The faculty was asked to stand when they identified with a question posed by the student leaders. Each question was related to one of the eight core cultural identifiers: ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status (class).
The second portion of the workshop consisted of an exercise called a “fishbowl” activity (pictured above with Lower School faculty, and below with Middle School). The SDLC students created questions that they would answer inside the “fishbowl,” and faculty had the opportunity to ask questions after listening to the conversation.
The students expressed that it is hard for the majority to understand what is like being a person of color and having to adjust/code-switch throughout the day. More specifically, one student said, “I can’t walk into the school and leave my culture and experiences at home. I need you to recognize my differences and allow for conversations that may be uncomfortable for you. That allows me to trust you and feel safe in your classroom. I have to deal with race every day, most white people don’t have to think about their race if they don’t want too. I don’t have that option.” The conversation was engaging and enlightening for both the students and faculty.
This year we also introduced three new affinity groups designed and led by students: SALSA (Spanish and Latin Student Association), ASA (Asian Student Association) and the Social Justice Club. Each group presents issues to the student body that matter to them.
During Hispanic Month this fall, SALSA led an assembly and advisory activity on the various cultures within the Spanish and Latino/a populations. They discussed the stereotypes associated with each group and demystified several characteristics associated with the group.
The Asian Students Association will lead the Movies that Matter series in May. The movie Vincent Who? is based on the true story of an Asian American killed in 1982 in Detroit for allegedly “taking jobs away from Americans.” The murder ignited the Asian American civil rights movements.
The Social Justice Club is a forum for students interested in putting action to issues that are currently in the news. They have discussed and supported the #BlackLivesMatter movement as well as issues around the environment, including what is currently happening in Flint, Mich.
Many other groups such as SAGA (Straight and Gay Alliance) and BSU (Black Student Union) have led activities that cross over to other divisions. SAGA will lead the Day of Silence on April 22. BSU led a Black History Month assembly for the Middle School during their morning assembly that introduced the song and history of the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” In the spring, students from all groups will lead workshops in the Middle School as part of the Middle School Day of Service/Diversity. Each grade level will focus on identity development, bullying and the social identifiers. The workshops are completely run and designed by students.
Issues of equity and justice are not just for teachers and parents. Students have a desire to lead and participate in the work and conversations that will make Penn Charter and our global communities more inclusive community.