In the summer of 2020, the Center for Race and Public Education in the South (CRPES) launched the first Charlottesville Freedom School.
Third to fifth graders from the greater Charlottesville area participated in a virtual summer school that on focused on topics of voting, oral histories, and civic engagement.
In this video blog, one student scholar shared more about what she thinks adults should vote for, why it is important, and what young people can do.
CRPES launched Charlottesville’s first Freedom School in the summer of 2020! Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Freedom School was virtual and had 70 students from the Charlottesville area participating. This year’s Freedom School focused on topics of voting, oral histories, and civic engagement.
Safalani was one of the outstanding 4th grade students. She created a poem or essay about what she wanted adults to vote for on her behalf. It was so fantastic, the National Freedom School staff chose it to be presented during the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Day of Social Action Pep Rally. The Charlottesville Freedom School was honored to have her as a scholar and can’t wait to see the incredible future she has ahead of her!
Mary Coleman is executive director at City of Promise, a nonprofit that provides cradle-to-college academic support for youth from Charlottesville.
As the coronavirus changes everyday life, the new “School of COVID-19” is exposing the resilience may families already have.
Many youth-serving individuals and organizations are recognizing the strong coping strategies already in our communities.
be closed throughout the country, but the “School of COVID-19” is hosting
classes every day. What is the pandemic teaching those of us who serve youth?
More importantly, how can we apply those lessons now and long after the
emergency has passed?
As executive director at City of Promise, these questions loom upon my staff and me in our service to children and families in Charlottesville. Our program – modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone – has always depended upon in-person, on-the-street, and at-school engagement with youth. Moving to virtual academic coaching and mentoring was a painful transition, especially for staff with children at home who also need care and attention. The “School of COVID-19” forced us to dig deep to find the same kind of resilience we expect of the families we serve. The tables have turned. Those children and their parents are now our master teachers in the “School of COVID-19.”
For example, while the rest of us scramble and cry in the face of job loss and personal disruption, low-income persons draw from the strength they have built over time. The sad truth is, they have been here before. They have filed for unemployment before. They have relied on the food bank before. They have waited by the mailbox for government checks before.
While the rest of us complain about our hair salons being shuttered, black families carry on. They have been doing hair in the kitchen forever. Surviving without childcare or grandparents on call is tough, but it’s a daily reality for moms in our neighborhood. Can’t go anywhere because you’re sheltered in place? This is what it feels like for families who don’t have cars.
And what about virtual learning? Welcome to the world of those who always feel overwhelmed by their kid’s homework. COVID-19 is teaching us that being thrown into financial and personal uncertainty wears people down and creates household chaos that makes learning difficult. Coronavirus has taught us that Maslow was right: when basic needs are threatened, confidence and creativity are suppressed (read more about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs).
Those of us who find this stress new and overwhelming can turn what we are feeling into fresh resolve in our advocacy work by acknowledging the inner strength of the youth we serve.
Those who regularly face trauma and disruption show up to our after-school programs willing to engage. They never let on about how hard it is to jump through our hoops. Just the other day, one of our pathway coaches led a virtual session with a 6th grader who – determined to find a quiet place in her cramped public-housing unit – chose the floor next to the commode. This kid deserves our respect. She could write a book about “grit.”
And what about the parents? I spoke with a mom who came to City of Promise for the cleaning products and Kroger cards we distribute each Friday (thanks to donations restricted for COVID-19 relief). With a smile, she narrated the pride she felt because the trials of coronavirus haven’t plunged her into depression like they may have in the past. My eyes burned with tears as I realized that I focus too much on how far these parents have to go, instead of seeing how far they’ve come. This mom taught me a lesson about my own deficit thinking.
I’m sure many of us can admit that COVID-19 has exposed just how far we have to go as youth-serving individuals and organizations. It has exposed our lack of empathy. It has exposed our resignation that some children just don’t ever have internet or food on the weekend. It has exposed our complacency regarding a multitude of inequities and broken systems that make life difficult for the people we are trying to help. But if we are willing, we can learn from those very same people. They have so much to teach us. And we have so much to learn.
Author Bio: Mary Coleman is executive director at City of Promise, a nonprofit that provides cradle-to-college academic support for youth living in the 10th and Page, Westhaven, and Starr Hill communities in Charlottesville. A fundraiser by profession, Mary served from 2005 to 2012 as Director of Donor Relations at Woodberry Forest School in Madison County, Virginia. Later, as Director of Institutional Advancement at The Covenant School in Charlottesville, Mary managed fundraising, parent programs, marketing, and alumni relations. In 2017, Mary became development director at City of Promise where she raised the profile of the organization in Charlottesville. Mary is a trauma and resilience trainer through the Greater Charlottesville Trauma-Informed Community Network.
I am a parent and an assistant professor who teaches an introductory course about humanitarian crises and children, Child Protection in Emergencies (CPiE). What we are experiencing with CoViD-19, is a humanitarian crisis. The CoVid-19 pandemic has caused an abrupt shift in the “normal day” and has brought challenges to all of us. In times of crisis (humanitarian), the needs of children and youth are often the last to be attended. While the global community appears to have been a bit better about considering the needs of children at the forefront vs. later in this crisis, we haven’t been super great at utilizing systems or putting systems in place swiftly here in the US. Even more so, the needs of Black Americans are often the last to be attended. To assist with coping particularly for Black Americans whose higher contraction rates of CoViD-19 and morbidity related fatality is only now being publicly acknowledged, stay in side, hang out with your children and try some of these suggestions to help you during this dynamic and challenging period in your parenting and in our lives.
Many parents are now at home parenting 24/7 and attempting to
maintain a FT job that helps to keep the lights on, the mortgage or rent
paid and the refrigerator full. Other parents are on the front lines
and have limited time to have hands-on oversight. Whether you are at
home 24/7 or you are setting up your home for your children while you
are at work, it doesn’t matter how many children you have at home, I
don’t take for granted that all parents and adults know what to do now
that our children are home ALL day every day. I include in this list
simple tips and strategies for integrating the awe-inspiring resilience
of African Americans who generationally have had to overcome crises too
often associated with being Black in America. The deterioration of Black
communities have impacted how we think and transfer skills and
knowledge to our children that is protective and models how “we got
over”, but now is a time to reintroduce and practice those strategies.
Our care for our children should be infused with our ways of being and
our care for ourselves.
Breathe, deeply. When you breathe deep you allow oxygen to reach your brain and you release tension. Your brain needs the oxygen to function at ideal levels. Deep, long breathes are also restorative and centering. When we breathe deeply we can also feel our body.
Pray, meditate. Both mother wit and research have demonstrated faith is a protective factor for Black Americans! It helps with healing during sickness, with ailments and is calming. Spiritual or religious practice involve prayer or meditating on what is good and well. In spite of what is occurring, Black people historically rely on faith to get through difficult periods. Don’t, DO NOT let go of this practice. If you don’t already, include your children in your faith practices. I have a toddler. Sometimes she is in the mood to pray or practice gratitude, sometimes she isn’t. Today I found her in her room praying on her own, praying and expressing thanks to God. Works for me!
Express gratitude for those who came before you and made a way. Look to what they did for strength and practical ideas to get through. If you have living family members who can tell you how “they made it” through segregation, the civil rights movement, serving in the military, or being the “first” in their field, now is the time to listen up. Black Americans have had to manage marginalization and acute societal contractions in the United States differently every time we have an occurrence. Call to ask, call, don’t text. Remember, telephones were made for talking. If you don’t have blood relatives to connect with, who are close friends and family you could reach out to for this conversation? A worry for many parents is the lack of inter-generational knowledge-again here is a space to invite your children into this conversation. Learning about how others they know have handled difficulties will likely prove useful for them as they learn about culturally based coping strategies. High school and college seniors, are understandably disappointed with the status of graduation celebrations this year. How might their perspective change if they heard family stories of resilience and persistence when public celebrations and appreciations of academic accomplishments for Black students were non-existent due to circumstance or could only be private and intimate? Turn these interviews into family histories. Tell our stories as keepers of our own culture.
There are 12 additional tips and strategies for Black American parents on the original post from the In The Know Blog.
Author Bio: Valerie Adams-Bass is a developmental psychologist who earned her PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. She focuses on adolescent development. Dr. Adams-Bass is an Assistant Professor of Youth and Social Innovations in the Department of Human Services at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education. She is a faculty affiliate with the Youth-Nex and an affiliate faculty member of the Racial Empowerment Collaborative with the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Pennsylvania.
Youth-Nex hosted their 7th conference in November 2019.
The title of the conference was “Dialoging for Democracy: Youth Moral Reasoning and Social Justice.”
Co-chair Dr. Johari Harris discusses why this conference was chosen and what participants got from attending.
The Unite the
Right White Nationalist march that took place in Charlottesville on August 11
and 12th 2017 demonstrated the resiliency and inherent violence of White
supremacy. In the time since, this nation has continued to see a rise in hate
crimes directed at different, often marginalized, communities within the United
States. These events run parallel to larger conversations about justice and
human welfare happening both in the U.S. and abroad. From immigration to global
warming, people are grappling with what solutions to these problems should look
like. While these issues and subsequent conversations are often viewed as “best
left to the adults,” events like March for Our Lives, the Global Climate
Strike, and A Day Without Immigrants demonstrate the vested interest today’s
youth have in these and other moral issues and the health of our overall
We at Youth-Nex wholeheartedly support these efforts. Further, we believe that, rather than overlooking the concerns of youth, our educational and policy systems should center youth in the process of understanding complex problems by paying attention to how youth think about these issues and how adults can support youth’s engagement in creating solutions to them. I had the wonderful opportunity to co-chair the 7th Youth-Nex conference on “Dialoging for Democracy: Youth Moral Reasoning and Social Justice” with Dr. Nancy Deutsch (Director of Youth-Nex) in November 2019.
during the planning of this, however, that there are key questions we must
consider as we seek to support and collaborate with youth.
First, how does
youth’s thinking about complex moral and social issues shift as they grow and
change? What does the science of child and adolescent development tell us about
how to best scaffold youth’s engagement with moral issues and how do we then
engender civic engagement among youth? Second, what is the role of dialogue in
this process? What are best practices for engaging youth in moral issues?
Finally, how do we engage youth in moral issues in our current social and
political climate? In particular, how do we do this work within K-13 spaces, both
formal and informal educational settings?
answering these questions, the conference looked closely at the developmental
processes related to how youth think about moral issues, the power (and
constraints) of dialogue, and the relationship of both of these constructs to
democracy. Importantly and intentionally, we kept the structural issues youth
face at the forefront of the conversation. There must be an understanding of
macro-level forces, like systemic racism, that dictate the effectiveness and
expression of individual agency. Therefore, we discussed how implicit and
explicit issues of power cannot be divorced from the types of dialogue in which
youth can engage. We unpacked the developmental process related to moral
reasoning, empathy, civic engagement, and perspective taking, and provided
examples of best practices of how to do this work in a range of spaces from
classrooms to camps.
Our hope was
that participants left the conference ready to return to their own spaces
better equipped to amplify youth’s engagement with moral issues and social
justice in ways that further their existing capacity as today’s change makers,
and the future leaders of our democracy. You can watch video from all the
sessions and many performances at the conference on the Youth-Nex youtube
channel and our website.
Author Bio: Dr. Johari Harris is an Assistant Research Professor at the Curry School of Education and Human Development. Her work examines how social identities, specifically race and gender, along with cultural values systems, like Afro-centric values, influence African American adolescents social-emotional competencies. Her research is grounded in intersectionality, developmental psychology, and social psychology theories.
Valerie N. Adams-Bass is an Assistant Professor of the Youth and Social Innovations (YSI) program in the Curry School of Education and a Youth-Nex Faculty Affiliate, at the University of Virginia.
Educational Technology, Ed-Tech is garnering considerable attention as public school districts increasingly adopt and integrate technology into day-to-day instruction. In 2015, I worked as a research fellow with the University of California Davis School of Education on the Digital Promise Pilot to Purchase Project.
Considered a “short-cycle” research project, we worked at a rapid pace for the first half of the year to learn as much as we could from six districts that ranged in size from 1,200-to-96,000 students about how they pilot and make purchasing decisions about ed-tech products. To collect data, I touched down in 4 time zones and visited 4 states; Alabama, California, Idaho, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. After a demanding travel schedule, I wrapped up my data collection and headed home.
Many of our findings were published in Pilot-to-Purchase, Piloting Ed-tech Products in k-12 Public Schools report and we created a “tool kit” of resources that are the result of recommendations included in the report. In steps two, three and four of the toolkit I discuss planning, training and implementation and data collection, all important components of piloting ed-tech tools. You’ll find videos discussing these steps throughout this blog, courtesy of DigitalPromise.org.
Adams-Bass Video One: From Digital Promise.org Planning
When planning a pilot, districts must clearly articulate what they are trying to accomplish and how they will collect evidence to make an informed decision. Pilots produce the most useful results when everyone involved can answer the question, “What does success look like?”
To examine how these demands relate to our work as scholars of youth development, we needn’t look any further than the first demand of the first set:
An immediate end to the criminalization and dehumanization of Black youth across all areas of society including, but not limited to; our nation’s justice and education systems, social service agencies, and media and pop culture. This includes an end to zero-tolerance school policies and arrests of students, the removal of police from schools, and the reallocation of funds from police and punitive school discipline practices to restorative services.
This is not hypothetical. This is not up for empirical debate. This is happening, across all areas of society, as in, all the areas of youth lives that we study. And this is urgent.
“The urgency around Black Lives is not only relevant to scholars who list “race” among their research interests. It is relevant to ALL of us whose work touches our nation’s justice and education systems, social service agencies, and media and pop culture.”
Lauren Mims is a Ph.D. student in the Curry School of Education’s educational psychology-applied developmental science program. She is also affiliated with Youth-Nex, and is a fellow with Virginia Educational Science Training (VEST). Mims interned at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans in the summer of 2015 and posts regularly on their blog. This article is reposted with the permission of the U.S. Dept of Education, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.
I will never forget my experience working as a Mile 22 Hydration Station volunteer at the Boston Marathon when bombs exploded at the finish line. I can still picture the chaos that ensued moments after the bomb exploded at the finish line: the speeding of police cars from the security station behind me, the confused looks from runners who asked me what was happening, the screams from sprinters passing by as they called the names of fellow teammates, and the sobs of onlookers doubled over in fear and distress. I offered Gatorade and words of comfort to runners until the road in front of me was clear. Continue reading →