SMART jump-started the 2012-2013 school year with its first meeting on Friday, September 28. Cardozo Senior High School, Coolidge Senior High School and Wilson Senior High School were represented by 30 students and educators. French and Spanish interpreters were present, but the languages heard across the room included Amharic, Spanish, French, Mandarin, Cantonese and Zambian dialects. The Lead Student Organizers (LSOs), Rahwa Mebrahtom, Tedla Mekonnen, Shen Qu and Lisa Zhao facilitated the entire meeting and each of its activities.
We began with a Rocket Builder Competition, whose goal was to have students build the tallest and strongest rocket. Students were divided into 5 groups, each group receiving a bag of materials. Unbeknownst to the students, each group received materials that differed in quality and amount. The inequitable distribution of resources soon had students asking neighboring groups to share resources and at times, taking materials. When the team with the most resources was declared the winner, the Lead Student Organizers lead the students in discussion of resource distribution. During the discussion, students likened the competition to the education system in DC. They noted how they had less resources when compared to their mainstream counterparts, while still expected to compete for college admission slots. Other students noted how the unfair distribution of resources compared to immigrant workers competing for jobs with American-born workers, as well as the intersectionality of race and socioeconomic status. The students concluded that only the group had the power to change the rules of the game and larger societal systems.
In the next activity, students shared their experiences as ELL students in DC public schools in small groups. The LSOs then related how SMART's campaign for ELL Support Groups* could address those individual issues. With a closing activity, the raging success of the first SMART meeting of the year came to a close.
*This year, SMART will establish ELL Support Groups in 4 different high schools, Wilson, Cardozo, Coolidge and Roosevelt. The ELL Support Groups will be staffed by 2 teachers, 2 ELL students, 2 parents and 2 community members. Their job would be to organize an annual ELL orientation, ensure interpretation and translation at the school level and coordinate an International Day in the school. Stay tuned for more updates from SMART's campaign!