Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Youth Voice: On Race and Ethnicity

By Sam Piha

Source: Adobe

Now more than ever, people across the country are engaged in discussions about race, ethnicity and equity. While February is Black History Month, we wanted to learn more about recent history- the reflection of young adults on their experience with race and ethnicity in America. 

We invited a group of young people enrolled in a local community college class, focused on race issues in America, to answer a few questions. We asked about their early experiences with racial and ethnic differences and how those early experiences shaped them. Below are some of their responses. 

"I grew up in a town which has a very diverse population, so my early experiences with racial and ethnic differences were abundant and positive. Starting at age 5, I played soccer where I was introduced to many families from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. My supportive and hard- working parents raised me to not judge people by the color of their skin or their ethnic background, so I was able to interact with people based on their actions or how they treated others. As I grew up, I continued to learn about other cultures and I became more interested in various international areas."

"My early experiences with racial and ethnic differences really started when I transferred to another high school where I felt like a fish out of water. In all my classes, I was the only person who was mixed race. Being biracial, I would get looks of curiosity or people would ask, 'What are you?' I always hated when people would ask me that because I would always wonder if people thought different of me. My core group of friends were Latino. Since I am half Latino, we could relate on that, but I learned that we had different cultures, holidays and eat different foods. I felt more comfortable with them because they never judged me about being biracial. When I joined the Black Student Union at my high school, the teacher and some of the students would say, 'I’m not black enough' or that 'I was whitewashed' because of the place I was raised.

These early experiences shaped me into the person I am today by making me very comfortable with who I am, a strong biracial woman. In my early years, I was almost ashamed of being biracial and not being able to connect with a specific group. Now with everything that is going on in the news, like Black Lives Matter, I see the importance in embracing who I am as a person of mixed race. I see that a person doesn’t need to specifically connect with a group just because they are the same race but being able to connect with them because they don’t judge who you are and the actions you take."     

"Middle school was definitely harder because people were comparing themselves to each other and were less tolerant of individuals who were different. There were times when people said things about those in my race or other races, but this helped me to be kinder to others and tolerant. People have physical and cultural differences, but it’s the kind of person they are on the inside that really matters."

Source: Edutopia

"My early experiences with racial and ethnic differences began when I was in 5th grade and could start to realize what were the differences between me and other students. An experience I could remember was when in class I was being accused of something I didn’t do and when everyone else pointed out the person who did do it, the teacher was in denial because they saw the other kid as innocent because 'that’s not in him to do, and not in his nature.' When I started to figure out what she meant, I realized that people of color are targeted at an early age."

"My mom raised my brother and I in an environment that was very diverse so we wouldn't have to experience racism as children. When she finally tried to teach us about racial differences and the history of racism, we didn't believe a word. Instead, my brother and I were actually upset; we thought our mother was racist for acknowledging the differences between races, for we saw everyone the same. We sat and argued with her, so sure that 'those kinds of things don't happen anymore,' and 'no one cares about that stuff like they used to,' not because it held truth, but because it was something we genuinely believed. As I started to get older and my knowledge grew, so did the people around me. Kids I’d gone to school with since elementary became more curious and more vocal about each other's differences."  

"As someone wearing Hijab (headscarf) to represent my religion and modesty, I have seen people looking at me and treating me differently. It is challenging to live in a place where people think of me differently from other individuals. However, seeing minorities experiencing racial differences makes me stronger in different aspects. It makes me stronger in an encouraging way. It reminds me that I have a chance to prove them wrong for wrongfully hating us. My parents always taught me not to let racial discrimination or other issues in my life stop me from being who I strive to be. I was taught that if I have a chance to make a difference, nothing should stop me from achieving it. As an immigrant, I have an opportunity to prove to individuals that race doesn't affect whether someone can be successful."

"My first experiences with racial and ethnic differences was when I was younger and I would visit my sister’s house. My sister lived in a predominantly white town, and I lived in a predominantly Latino town. Her town was very quiet and everyone was in bed by 9 P.M. In my neighborhood the noise never stopped. It felt like being an outcast to be in her town because when people there saw a person of color, they often liked to stare.

Another time I experienced an aspect of being different was when my parents divorced. At first, I tried to hide it, but it was inevitable that people would find out. I didn't want to be seen as different. However, when people found out, such as students and teachers, I noticed I was treated a little differently at first. Teachers were more lenient accepting late work. My peers would avoid talking about their family outings around me. These experiences have shaped me into the person I am today because I learned that racism is not in the past and it still exists."

"My early experiences with racial and ethnic differences were good. As a kid, I grew up and went to school with people of all backgrounds and everyone got along. I thought of kids that looked different than me in class as just other fellow humans, not categorized as a different alien race. I still carry this mindset with me today as it feels easier on the mind because of its simplicity. In my opinion, if you try to simplify everything around your environment and not complicate things, it’s easier to achieve bliss."

"I’ve had a bit of a negative experience with dealing with differences such as caste. My family are Sikhs and part of the 'Jatt' caste (a farmer caste). My parents can sometimes look down upon other Sikhs that they would consider are part of a lower caste. I tell them to abolish this caste notion, that it’s outdated now that we’re in America. They don’t listen to me and still keep their biased view of thinking. These early experiences shaped me to be more welcoming of others and view everyone as a fellow human."

As schools prepare to re-open, afterschool program staff need to consider the experiences of youth who have been away from school and their friends due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We know these vary greatly depending on family income and racial/ ethnic background. What are young people's needs? What should we, as afterschool staff, do to help youth thrive when they return to afterschool programs post COVID? How might we build back school and program culture and a sense of "family" spirit and connection in our afterschool programs? Join Stu Semigran and a panel of afterschool program experts to learn how best to help youth thrive as they return to school and afterschool. To get more information and to register for our next Speaker's Forum, click here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

2021: Expectations from Afterschool Leaders

By Sam Piha

Source: jackuldrich.com
In a recent blog we shared responses from afterschool workers on their lessons and take-aways from a turbulent 2020. Below we asked two respected leaders in the afterschool field, Dale Blyth (University of Minnesota) and Stu Semigran (EduCare Foundation), to look forward and share their thoughts regarding 2021. 

Can you name one challenge that we will face in 2021? 

Stu Semigran

"One major challenge will be the essential need for students and staff to reconnect and reestablish their relationships with one another and with their school community as a whole.  We will be faced with how to effectively process all that has taken place... for us individually, within our families, our communities, and our nation.  There will be attention needed on addressing trauma and concerns about learning loss.  There will be a need for deep listening and increased sensitivity to how individuals are doing, along with a boost of vitality, enthusiasm, and a strong sense of purpose as reassuring adults and positive role models." – Stu Semigran

Dr. Dale Blyth
"Uniting the many different parts of the youth sector and community youth programs so that we are able to be both more visible to the community as necessary not just nice and more powerful in creating learning and development opportunities that matter in these challenging times and complement and expand beyond those schools can offer." – Dale Blyth

Can you name one opportunity that you see in 2021? 

"These same challenges can be turned into uplifting and exciting opportunities that are in front of us in afterschool in 2021.  Within EduCare, we are actively developing our "return to school" (3Rs- Reconnect- Reinspire- Reignite learning) model for high school students returning back onto school sites hopefully in early 2021. The intent is to provide essential mental health support and social-emotional skills development while reestablishing a positive school culture that assists students restore themselves, renew their relationships, and step forward into learning." – Stu Semigran   

"I believe learning and development, both how important they are and how hard they are to do intentionally, has dramatically increased as a result of 2020. The opportunity for afterschool in 2021 is to position itself as a viable, valuable and versatile place where such learning and development can and is being done." – Dale Blyth

Source: eenews.net

What do you think we should be thinking about as we look forward to a new presidential administration?

"With the possibility of broader government support for social causes such as afterschool and expanded learning, we need to keep building our collective voices and advocacy for the essential increased funding for expanded learning programs." – Stu Semigran

"I think now is the time to push for a significant children and youth cabinet with a lead "czar" that focuses on what is best for the learning and development of children and youth in America. the type of people and places where real, forward thinking policy and practices might be promoted and resourced. Such a cabinet and czar needs to explicitly recognize and engage families but also child care and youth development programs in the community. A focus on all adults, all settings, and all approaches to learning and development in a strength- based approach." – Dale Blyth

As schools prepare to re-open, afterschool program staff need to consider the experiences of youth who have been away from school and their friends due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We know these vary greatly depending on family income and racial/ ethnic background. What are young people's needs? What should we, as afterschool staff, do to help youth thrive when they return to afterschool programs post COVID? How might we build back school and program culture and a sense of "family" spirit and connection in our afterschool programs? Join Stu Semigran and a panel of afterschool program experts to learn how best to help youth thrive as they return to school and afterschool. To get more information and to register for our next Speaker's Forum, click here.

Stu Semigran is the co-founder and president of EduCare Foundation and the executive director of EduCare’s ACE (Achievement and Commitment to Excellence) Student Success Program. Currently serving more than 45 high schools and middle schools in Southern California, EduCare also is the grant manager for the ASSETs after school programs at 17 LAUSD Beyond the Bell high schools and 1 middle school. Over 30,000 students are served each year through EduCare afterschool and youth development programs.

Dr. Dale Blyth is a senior research consultant and advisor who recently retired as Extension Professor in the College of Education & Human Development at the University of Minnesota where he served as the Howland Endowed Chair in Youth Development Leadership and Senior Research Fellow with the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement. For 15 years he served as Associate Dean directing the Center for Youth Development. The Center was home for the Minnesota 4-H Program, the Youth Work Institute, Youth Community Connections (then the statewide Mott network), and conducting applied research and evaluation. Recently he led an initiative to advance social & emotional learning outcomes. He serves on several community, state and national groups related to out of school time, data systems, and youth development.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The History of Black History Month

By Sam Piha

February is Black History Month. It celebrates the history and accomplishments of African Americans. It is especially important in the growing awareness of police brutality and systemic racism.

Even though the national recognition of Black History Month began in 1976, few people know about the history of Black History Month. According to a recent article published in Education Week, by  , “Many accept Black History Month as a special time of year, yet few recognize the role African American teachers played in establishing and popularizing this tradition during Jim Crow. Originally founded in 1926 as Negro History Week by the famed educator and groundbreaking historian Carter G. Woodson, Black History Month is the product of Black teachers’ long-standing intellectual and political struggles." 

Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished, lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.” – Carter G. Woodson

The article continues, "Woodson was particularly interested in using Negro History Week to infuse students’ learning with critical knowledge about racial domination as well as the long traditions of Black resistance and achievement. Negro History Week quickly became a cultural norm in Black segregated schools. According to surveys conducted by Black educator and journalist Thomas L. Dabney in 1934, it was celebrated in more than 80 percent of those high schools by the mid-1930s.” 

Read the full article here.

These educators insisted on the importance of providing students with cultural armor to repudiate the racial myths reflected in the nation’s laws, social policies, and American curriculum.” – Jarvis R. Givens

Young people may respond positively to discussion about African American people who are making important contributions to society today. For instance, the scientist who is leading the fight against COVID-19, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett. To learn more, click here to view a report on Dr. Corbett by CBS News.

Source: CBS News

Source: Glamour
Many of us do not need to travel very far to find Black History treasures in our own backyard. For instance,  is the oldest, living Park Ranger who gives presentations on her early experience as an African American in the Bay Area at Richmond's Rosie the Riveter Museum. A video of Soskin can be viewed here or you can read more about her here.

Below are websites that offer photographs, facts and videos dedicated to Black History Month:
Carter G. Woodson was an American historian, author, journalist, and the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. He was one of the first scholars to study the history of the African diaspora, including African-American history. A founder of The Journal of Negro History in 1916, Woodson has been called the "father of black history". In February 1926 he launched the celebration of "Negro History Week", the precursor of Black History Month.

Jarvis R. Givens is an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and the Suzanne Young Murray Assistant Professor at the Radcliffe Institute, having earned his Ph.D. in African Diaspora Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. As an interdisciplinary historian, Givens' research falls at the intersection of the history of American education, 19th and 20th century African American history, and critical theories of race and schooling. 

Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett is a research fellow and the scientific lead for the Coronavirus Vaccines & Immunopathogenesis Team at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Vaccine Research Center (VRC).  A viral immunologist by training, Dr. Corbett uses her expertise to propel novel vaccine development for pandemic preparedness. In all, she has 15 years of expertise studying dengue virus, respiratory syncytial virus, influenza virus and coronaviruses. Along with her research activities, Dr. Corbett is an active member of the NIH Fellows Committee and avid advocator of STEM education and vaccine awareness in the community.

Betty Reid Soskin is the oldest National Park Ranger, serving at the Rosie the Riveter World War II/Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California. During World War II, she worked as a file clerk for the African-American local of the International Boilermakers Union in Richmond. She later served as a field representative for California State Assemblywomen Dion Aroner and Loni Hancock. As of 2021, Soskin is still employed as a park ranger with the National Park Service, and conducts park tours and serves as an interpreter, explaining the park's purpose, history, various sites, and museum collections to park visitors.

Youth Vote 2024: Benefits of Youth Civic Engagement

Source: www.urge.org By Sam Piha The 2024 election offers a number of opportunities to engage older youth. But these opportunities require i...