Last week Wednesday, Feb 2nd, I got to meet the students for the first time. From the start of the program in August through December we were moving very slowly. We were unable to get time during the school day for the program, so we moved it to an after school program but this presented a host of problems. It was challenging to get a consistent group of students involved. Many students have after school obligations, such as work or family responsibilities. Or students may not feel safe staying after school. Because this project is student centered there wasn’t much we could do work wise. Instead we tried to imagine all the types of support the kids could want, and we did the background research. We knew that some issues already affecting the lives of Dobbins students were anger, gun violence, food insecurity, and home responsibilities. Assuming that these would be the topic areas to start conversations, we wanted to be sure that we would be able to support the students in these conversations.
Now it’s January, and school has a virtual start. We know students who want to be involved, but we also realize the challenges with trying to engage in work virtually while at home with distractions. So we didn’t push to start.
Two weeks later and Dobbins is back in person. We finally have the space and bandwidth to get the students started. We find some students interested in continuing their work with “Today Students, Leaders Tomorrow” after school program, a group that was created while school was virtual by Indy Shome who is one of the EFS facilitators at Dobbins. We spent some time seeing what issues in the community they are particularly interested in and want to work to change. After some conversations, students find that anger and gun violence are issues that plague their lives both at home and at school by reflecting on what issues are on their mind daily. THIS is it, this is the project. They talk about the interrelatedness of issues such as environment, genetics/neurosciences, and vengeance/retaliation. They identify community partners they want to engage with: CeaseFire, YEAH Philly, Neuroscientists, Psychologists, Urban Agriculture — nutrition and food, Mothers In Charge. As Dobbins is a technical school there are a variety of resources right on campus and with the help of the media teacher, who works with EFS, they choose to use the tools of the media to share their story. They want to use interviews and journalism to make connections to anger and gun violence with the environment, genetics, and cultures of retaliation.
Next we want to move towards how to craft these interviews and engage with the community.