By Becki Cohn-Vargas, Not In Our School Director
The National PTA Youth Leadership Summit in Cincinnati, OH was an incubator for student-led innovative ideas that address problems on our school campuses. Not In Our School (NIOS) was proud to present at the summit in June and witness how students quickly learned leadership skills and applied them to addressing bullying as well as tackling school cliques and divisions based on race.
At the summit, students participated in simulations that helped bring these solutions to the fore. One simulation was as follows:
Smith High School has always had a problem with cliques. Physical fights, verbal abuse, and damage to personal property has become the norm. School staff is trying to mitigate the problem with suspensions and mediations, but nothing they do seems to help. Recently, a student at SHS lost their life to this violence, and that is why they have decided to move into action.
One group decided to bring the students closer together so that they can learn to understand each others’ lives in order to increase empathy and decrease bullying at their school. Their creative solution included:
- Bringing a group of students staff and parents together in a leadership team to design an ongoing campaign
- A campaign launch with a motivational speaker, followed by parent meetings, student assemblies and small group dialogues and team-building to bring students of different ethnic groups together
- A mural project so that students could experience a meaningful project together.
The meetings, they agreed, should continue until the problem was solved.
Student leader She'Neka Williams, a r
ising junior at Grimsley Senior High School in Greensboro, NIC, was a key member of the team. She became involved with the Aycock Middle School PTSA when she became student body president and also helped with the Jones Elementary PTSA with her mother, an active member of boths PTSAs.
Today, She'Neka shares their great work at addressing cliques, including a Powerpoint presentation and a series of short videos shot with their cellphones that tell the story of change in this simulation. She'Neka created these materials along with Naazam Basir, Alex Saleh, Meagan Gardner, Jacqueline Cason, Victoria Garriques and Aliyah LeBoeuf.
Video Presentation: Smith High School Simulation About Breaking Down Cliques and Bridging Racial Divisions
1. Two cliques are separated because of race. As they walk past each other to go to class, they begin getting violent and very loud. Watch video.
2. This issue gets to the principal and she has a meeting with all of the girls. The principal plans numerous things to try to help resolve this form of bullying. Watch video
3. The principal decides to invite a guest speaker, who encourages the girls to make a change. Watch video
4. Another idea the principal had was to have the students make a mural which helped everyone get along. Watch video.
5. The next day at school the students see each other and end up walking to class together. Watch video
She'Neka reflected on her experience, "I plan to share this PowerPoint and videos with as many schools in my city as possible because I believe it is a very efficient way to prevent bullying. This experience impacted me in such a great way. I have often been told that I have a very creative mindset and that I have many leadership qualities and by putting my thoughts together, along with my team, we were able to create a wonderful presentation. I now feel very comfortable sharing my ideas and putting them to use. I am very excited that I am receiving the opportunity to share the presentation that I was able to present at the National Convention."
Let Not In Our School know how you are breaking up cliques and bridging racial divisions in your school or community at the NIOS Facebook page