InIt Youth Leaders Present 2018 Community Action Projects
A Day In The Life Of An InIt Advisor
written by Lin Pang
As Youth Partnerships Coordinator, I’ve had the joy of supporting students on their InIt journey throughout the year as they design and implement their Community Action Projects.
Last month, I got the chance to observe and participate in three Community Action Projects (CAPs) by our delegations at Boston Latin Academy, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and Milton High School. All in one day! Through the many challenges and roadblocks (such as juggling busy schedules and working with administration on topics perceived to be controversial), these delegations persevered and had extremely successful CAPs. Congratulations to these students and the rest of the InIt folks on a wonderful year – I can’t wait to celebrate “all the ways we’ve grown and learned at our program graduation this Thursday!
Boston Latin Academy – Arslan, Kiara, and Saphire
I started off the morning by attending BLA’s CAP on classism. The workshop took place in a dimly lit theater with about 40 or so students. As their InIt advisor, I knew their objectives were to establish the foundations necessary to create an environment here that encourages conversations and awareness surrounding classism and give insight on how classism operates through the 4 Is of Oppression. They ultimately wanted their peers to be more conscious of theirs and others’ socioeconomic statuses, how classism is perpetuated, and how classism affects society. They started with a stand up/sit down activity that had the participants thinking about their personal connection to the topic. After going through definitions, the students shared infographics and statistics about class and wealth in the United States. They also reviewed the 4 Is and asked the audience for examples. Students were shy at first to share but as the workshop went on, they became more comfortable and willing to participate.
What I really appreciated about this workshop was the intersectional lens this delegation used throughout. They made sure to bring up how other factors played into classism such as race, gender, and sexual orientation. They refused to shy away from a complex topic. Instead, they faced it head on and created an important space where these issues could be discussed. They also facilitated a more in-depth workshop after school and while I could not attend that one in-person, I heard it went very well!
Dana Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) Workforce Development – Pascale, Salamata, and Yawana
After getting a bit lost in the huge DFCI building, I found the room the students were presenting in. There were about 10 other youth and 3 adults who helped advise them throughout the year. We started off with a Kahoot! Game to explore vocabulary related to race and colorism. I recently learned about Kahoot! and I’m thankful the students introduced me to this fun, interactive medium. The game went through statistics about Black women and definitions that were foundational to the workshop such as microaggression and colorism. They then covered skits around the topic of anti-Black microaggressions. They used the framing of “they say… we hear…” to shed light on how seemingly positive intentioned comments can have a hurtful impact or implication. This framing was inspired by an article written by Buzzfeed reporter, Tamerra Griffin. For example, one of the phrases the students unpacked was, “they say ‘natural hair is unprofessional.’” “We hear, ‘Office-appropriate dress codes are equated to whiteness, and natural hair does not conform to that.’” They had students act out these scenarios and then facilitated discussion on why these would be considered microaggressions and how they can have a harmful impact.
While I was not the InIt advisor who supported them throughout the year with their CAP, it was still awesome to see how the students have grown from their interviews to now. Their facilitation and content provoked important conversations between the students and they were able to give their peers a space to discuss a topic that is often seen as taboo or “too difficult for students” in schools.
After this wonderfully interactive and thoughtful workshop, I facilitated an informational session on InIt to recruit members for our upcoming InIt year’s class. We did an agree/disagree activity with statements on a variety of markers such as race, class, and neighborhood. The students had extremely varied perspectives and opinions which made for rich and nuanced discussion. It was also awesome to see their adult advisors participate as well!
Milton High School – Dominik, Gigi, James, Josie, and Ty
For their CAP the MHS delegation conducted a student/faculty survey on school climate in the fall, analyzed the results, and came to the conclusion that their community felt racism and classism were the most pressing issues. They planned a panel focused on racism, classism, and the intersections of these two systems of power. From selecting the panelists to designing the flyers and curating targeted questions, the students led every part of the process.
Before the panel began the students led a presentation on racism and classism, particularly on how these forces played out in Milton. They ran through definitions such as the 4 Is of Oppression and how racial prejudice was different from racial oppression and racism. They gave a quick history lesson on redlining, and how this historical practice has affected where Milton and Mattapan are today. We then participated in a true/false myth debunking activity which explored stereotypes on working class people and perceptions of Milton compared to other neighboring towns. While I had been a part of supporting the students in creating this presentation and knew what was coming, this was the first time I had seen them facilitate so many folks at once!
Delegate James then led the panel discussion. Panelists included Milton High School teachers Mrs. Warn and Mr. Jordan, students Aliyah Farnum and Nuasheen Chowdhury (alumni of InIt Class of 2017), and Dr. Yndia Lorick-Wilmot who is a sociology professor at Northeastern University and a Milton parent. They represented a wide variety of races, socioeconomic classes, and backgrounds. They asked questions such as, “How do you think classism and racism are intertwined?” “What do you think is necessary to happen in order to break down classism and racism? What steps are needed?” “In the news and media, have there been any movements or events that have given you hope or vice versa?” The students spoke about their experiences as students of color in a predominantly white, upper class school. Teachers spoke about their responsibilities to be informed educators. Dr. Lorick-Wilmot brought in both her sociology knowledge and her personal experiences as a mother in the Milton community. Many audience members expressed how happy they were with the event, and some even said it was the best panel they have ever been to! I truly enjoyed this event and felt that both the panelists and the delegation handled the topic with intention and nuance.
It was wonderful to see the students step into these leadership opportunities and witness the culmination of a year’s hard work. The conversations they started and the knowledge they shared is urgent and important. The end of this program year is so bittersweet – while I’m sad we all won’t get to share as much time together, I’m thrilled to see how these incredible young people will continue to lead the way.
I firmly believe these movements for liberation and justice must be youth-led and youth-inclusive. If you are a high school student from the Greater Boston Area who is interested in leading your own Community Action Project and being a part of the our upcoming InIt class, we are currently accepting applications. Please check us out here!