Published: Feb 12, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Feb 12, 2013 04:47 PM
Everyone can be great because everyone can serve is a service-learning quote from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. the Blue Ribbon Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) focuses on continuously.
The institute was created to empower students of color, develop leadership skills and foster personal and civic growth. Each year students volunteer on the MLK national day of service in various ways. For the past several years we have volunteered at Lincoln Center. This is an opportunity to share the history of such a significant building in our community. It amazes me each year the number of students (many locals) that dont know its history. At the institute, we believe that knowing local history is an important part of empowering students.
This year we decided to add another project. The event is nationally known as Americas Supper. The event was created by the Points of Light Foundation to honor Dr. Kings memory. It encourages a diverse group of citizens to come together over supper and talk about local issues and create a project to complete. The institute held the supper on Monday, as a way to end the day of service. Any new event can appear daunting, but we were confident that we had enough community support to execute an effective event. Collaboration
I have the pleasure of working with three high school student groups. The institute focuses on leadership, service-learning and civic engagement; the Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN) focuses on eliminating the achievement gap and promoting equity for all students; and UNITY focuses on ending oppression and celebrating diversity.
These groups have tried to collaborate, but high school schedules are very difficult. It seemed the Monday supper would be a great opportunity. Each group was enthusiastic about collaborating, and so was the Chapel Hill Organizing Against Racism coalition.
As you know education and equity is a big issue in Chapel Hill. We decided to use several MLK quotes as table topics. We invited Superintendent Tom Forcella to talk about the growth mindset. We wondered if students and parents really understood this concept and philosophy. Assistant Superintendent Magda Parvey shared a video about the common core curriculum and a personal story using her daughters to illustrate her points. Her presentation was both interactive and relevant.
A diverse group of middle school and high school youth participated. Several parents, local ministers, NAACP representatives and school personnel attended. We planned for 65 participants and hoped for 80. The weeks just before the event seemed dismal as RSVPs were low. But we had nearly 130 attendees! We were humbled and thrilled by the number of people who attended and the depth and breadth of conversations. Discussions were thoughtful, engaging and insightful. These conversations generated many recommendations that parents, students and community members thought would make education more equitable for all students.
My hope is that the collaboration continues. These groups do some amazing things and I am sure collectively we could make Dr. Kings dream a reality.Lorie Clark is the Blue Ribbon high school specialist and adviser to YLI, MSAN and UNITY.
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