Supporting authentic student voices

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers afterschool program is a state-funded program at Sullivan Middle School’s Da Vinci Academy. The program, now in its second year, is working with about forty 7th and 8th grade students in workshops on character and leadership development, healthy communication, presentation skills, and conflict transformation. 

21st_Century14.jpgEvery Wednesday from 3:30-5:30 PM, the Center’s facilitators Claire and Sam, interns Raven and Janelle, and two teachers help students practice these skills through “Peace-builder” presentations, hands-on activities, and constructive dialogue. Together, students engage in critical discussion about issues in their communities and around the world, and the nonviolent movements that peace-builders lead to achieve social justice in their communities.

The Center’s facilitators help foster a safe environment where students feel comfortable voicing concerns about their school experience. Recently when 21st Century students expressed concern about racial discrimination and cultural misunderstandings at Sullivan resulting from the Ebola crisis, the Center’s facilitators helped them launch an Ebola Awareness Campaign. Staff from City of Worcester’s Division of Public Health came to share facts about Ebola and answer student questions. Students incorporated these facts into an Ebola Public Service Announcement video they wrote and filmed, wrote and presented a role-play, and created awareness posters for the school’s hallways. It’s an excellent example of the importance of space and support for authentic student voice and peer leadership. We commend the students for their creativity and bravery in stepping up to raise awareness about this social justice issue.