James M. Ellis Memorial Grant: Student Leadership Development towards Cultural Competency 

 

Rebecca Lewis, Lead Teacher & Justin Gusy

 

The goal of this project at King Philip Middle School is to reduce prejudice at our school in regards to race, religion, culture, gender, abilities, and sexual orientation. While that sounds like a huge task, we are starting small and thinking creatively about what we can do beyond our typical school culture efforts to provide students voice and position them as leaders in our community. To help with these efforts, we will partner with the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). Facilitators from NCCJ offer a "Bridges" program at our school. The purpose of the NCCJ Bridges program is, "for students to begin to understand the origins of prejudice and how it affects others, to confront their own prejudicial beliefs, to recognize the harmful effect of stereotypes and develop strategies to implement this learning in their own schools". Through the second half of this school year, we intend to structure opportunities for students to use the leadership skills they have developed during the training provided by NCCJ. For instance, the group will help inform our 8th Grade Identity Forum. In May, the Bridges group will also participate in KidsSpeak! 2020 at the University of Connecticut School of Law. All of these opportunities will help our students develop greater capacity to engage in meaningful discourse, which is a district priority.