Seattle’s Young ‘Kings’ Help Adults Build Fairer Education System
It’s 4 p.m. on a Wednesday and Adam Haizlip and Kevin Loyal call the Student Leadership Council meeting to order virtually via Zoom.
“How do you get into space today,” Haizlip wrote in the chat, inviting the dozen students to type or vocally describe the ups and downs of their day. Responses range from feeling good at school and being grateful that the smoke is finally cleared so they can be outside playing basketball or feeling isolated due to COVID regulations- 19.
Haizlip and Loyal stand together throughout, referring to each student as “king” and pushing the boys to dig deeper and engage with each other. The conversation then turns to the work the Student Leadership Council, or SLC, has done and how they can continue to grow and learn together throughout the school year.
The SLC is a group that includes black students from schools in the Seattle Public School District. They came together to support each other in their quest for a school-life balance while mentoring others and providing guidance to administrative leaders in the district as a whole.
“Nothing for us without us” is a phrase used in the meeting to describe the work kings do.
Haizlip and Loyal are managers in the African American Male Achievement Office, led by Dr Mia Williams. The office was established by District Superintendent Denise Juneau in 2019, using recommendations from the African American Men’s Advisory Committee, as part of the Seattle public school’s five-year strategic plan, Seattle Excellence, which was designed after listening and learning from families, staff, students, partners and the community at large. The goal of Seattle Excellence is to ensure that all graduate students are prepared for college, careers, and community involvement with a focus on students of color furthest from educational justice – and the AAMA’s goal is to rebuild Seattle’s public schools. system-wide educational environment to support black boys and adolescents.
“Black families have been so marginalized in public education, of course they want to see solutions for every child. But the role of AAMA is to push the whole system and tackle the adult practices and our policies that have been a barrier to meeting the needs of all of our African American boys and teens, ”says Williams. “By focusing our work on the system, the individual needs of students will be met.”
Williams’s dream is that she is working without a job herself, having successfully transformed the neighborhood into a neighborhood where each department creates an environment that centers black students, which in turn will help ensure that all students are well served. flourish.
This type of systemic reform requires community support and community input. This is essential for understanding how the system fails and finding ways to change it. the Alliance for Education, a nonprofit organization committed to advancing educational justice and racial equity for Seattle public school students, is supporting fundraising for this effort, supporting the program with $ 1.86 million in seed funding local organizations, including Microsoft Philanthropies.
The reason the AAMA Office was created and the reason the Alliance’s mission focuses on racial equity are the same: Our public education system has always failed students of color, and especially to our black and African American students, ”says Alliance for Education president and CEO Lisa Chick. “This has to change. You can look at historical data from Seattle public schools and see the disproportionate impacts of systemic racism, but to truly understand how to fix the system, we need to listen to our black and African American students and understand the issues from their perspective. “
Alliance for Education strategies are directly aligned with the district strategic plan. For example, their Seattle Teacher Residency Program annually recruits, trains, and places a diverse group of 25-30 highly qualified teachers in Seattle Title I schools (schools with a high percentage of students experiencing poverty).
“I was inspired by the cross-sectoral engagement I saw to tackle systemic racism in our public education system,” adds Chick. “From the Superintendent’s strategic plan to the creation of the AAMA Office to the support of our philanthropic partners for this effort, there is a lot of will in the community for real change to happen.
To achieve this change, Williams identified four areas of interest called the Four C. Culture. Conditions. Skills. And community connection.
All the work that adults do is focused on listening to the students themselves. Their voices must be heard.
A student typed in the chat at a Student Leadership Council meeting, “I feel called to talk about myself and all the other kids like me whose experiences are overlooked. I have a voice and it’s not about to be cut off.
Another wrote: “I feel called to be honest in everything I do and to provide a different perspective or perspective on matters.”
The SLC plays a central role in ensuring that student voices are not lost. The SLC Kings have been approached by the district to do virtual presentations on how the school could safely start in the fall. They also weighed in on COVID-19 planning, scoring practices, anti-racism policies, student engagement and fall 2020 planning.
Haizlip shares his screen at the SLC meeting, a page noting the start of the SLC in February 2020. The end date reads “to infinity,” a good reminder that while Williams could eventually get rid of SLC. a job, the current and future kings of SLC will not stop defending its interests and a fairer future.
the African American Male Achievement Office strives to ensure that the educational environment throughout the system promotes the brilliance and excellence of black boys and adolescents. Microsoft is proud to sponsor this article on their behalf.