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The Black Student Summit was held on Feb. 6 and 8 as the first event in ETHS’s 2017-2018 “Social Consciousness Series.” The theme was “Get Woke, Stay Woke” which helped frame discussions on identity and the implications of social constructions related to race.
“You are here not because something is wrong, not because you are inferior, not because of some deficiency we see in academic achievement. This is a day we celebrate who we are, where we come from and that we are not to be solely defined by how society decides to define us,” said Principal Marcus Campbell at the opening of the Summit, which was attended by 809 students of varied ethnic backgrounds.
Several organizers of the event gave a report on the Summit at the District 202 School Board meeting Feb. 26. Michael Edwards, school social worker, talked about the planning process. For the first time, a student planning board and committee was convened following focus groups with 75 students in November 2017. A focused committee of 30 met monthly, 12 members of the planning board met weekly and 25 students co-facilitated Summit sessions he said. This is a “new model of honoring student voice that we look forward to continuing, to explore issues of racial equity in our school,” said a written report provided to the Board.
More than 100 community members volunteered as chaperones and facilitators. “The City of Evanston stepped up big, said Mr. Edwards, “as did The Chessmen Club, Northwestern University, YMCA, Y.O.U. and many more.”
Nichole Boyd, ETHS Director of Student Activities/Student Success Center, talked about the structure. Students were allowed to register for one of four different tracks offered over two days, she said, selecting from topics on Emotional Literacy, Identifying Internalized Racism, Know Our Rights and Intersectionality. Guest speakers included Dr. Eve L. Ewing, writer/Asst. Professor at the University of Chicago; “Inky” Johnson, author/motivational speaker; and Ganae McAlpin and Dr. Kamasi Hill, ETHS history teachers. Student performances and fun activities, such as photos sessions and a dance floor, were also woven into the days.
Feedback scores were higher than last year, said Nicole Parker, History and Social Science Department Chair. Post-event evaluations showed that 72% of students and volunteers rated the Summit “good” and 28% rated it “average”; no one rated it “poor.”
Students commented they liked that the event was not segregated along the gender binary like the previous Black Male/Female Summits and appreciated the collecting of student input and involvement through focus groups to ensure that student voice was honored. Students were also glad to see community members who represented various organizations and connections to ETHS involved.
Other feedback suggested the Summit, “can more efficiently get students where they want to go” and that students, “want more time to talk,” said Mr. Edwards, but overall the feedback was positive.
Principal Campbell said planners want to find ways to sustain such discussions over the entire year not just over a course of one day. He said conversations can be structured to hit themes and expand discussion.
“One of the takeaways is that students feel empowered when they collaborate and we trust them with what they want,” said Lauren Hamilton, ETHS Research Assessment and Evaluation, told the Board.
Feedback from the Board was all positive. Board member Monique Parsons, who attended the second day of the Summit, said she “gets excited about this every year, all the planning and intentionality and watching students be themselves.”
Board member Jude Laude brought 13 students from North Lawndale College Prep where he works to the Summit and said they were inspired and “all want to transfer” to ETHS.
“The first year, you said you were bringing us something big,” said Board President Pat Savage-Williams, “and this keeps getting bigger.”