Developing Student Leadership Groups in the San Francisco Bay Area

Developing Student Leadership Groups in the San Francisco Bay Area

Trevor Gardner of Oakland’s Envision Academy of Arts & Technology and Eran DeSilva of San Jose’s Notre Dame High School are working together with Facing History Senior Program Associate Milton Reynolds to bring student leadership groups to the seven San Francisco-area schools in Facing History’s Innovative Schools Network (ISN). They hope to nurture independent leadership groups in each of the innovative schools around San Francisco and to explore ways to convene them periodically for shared learning and collective action.

The first convening was built around a February, 2014, production of “Martin & Music: Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Words and Music,” which explored civil rights through songs and the speeches of Dr. King.

"These groups will share ideas and ways to map out leadership activities within and between schools," Reynolds says. "This is a model of distributive leadership. It ensures that the Innovative Schools can benefit not only from the best practices of their Facing History educators, but from the energies of Facing History students as they assume leadership roles."    

The February 25 performance, presented in partnership with The Allstate Foundation, conveyed a message about positive participation using Dr. King’s speeches, music from the civil rights movement, and "spoken word" reflections by performers Charles Holt and Gerald Rivers.

"I had to move to the music,” one ISN student told the performers following the event. “I had to listen with an open heart and think about the history that was shared. Thank you so much."

Two hundred and fifty people, including over 100 students from seven schools affiliated with the Innovative Schools Network, came to the Oakland Museum of California for the event. The students gathered beforehand to get acquainted, share ideas about how Facing History "shows up" on their campuses, and discuss what it means to begin a leadership movement to impact their own schools. They sat together to watch a segment of a civil rights film and discussed the roles of young leaders during the movement. Civil rights veterans, including Freedom Riders Cathy Cade and Wazir Peacock and activist Phil Hutchings, the last chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, shared stories and described the connections between their experiences as young people and their ongoing activism today.

Ideas shared at the Innovative Schools Network Conference last October in Washington D.C. inspired DeSilva and Gardner. The team hopes to nurture independent leadership groups in each of the schools in the Innovative Schools Network in the Bay Area region, but also to find opportunities for students from the different school groups to come together periodically to share ideas and resources. Plans are underway for a student leadership group symposium at some point next school year.

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