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Evanston Township High School held four affinity-based student summits this past school year as part of the District’s social-consciousness series. Staff Equity Coordinator Lauren Hamilton and Principal Marcus Campbell gave a report on the events at the June 11 District 202 School Board Meeting.
The goal of the Latinx Summit, Black Summit, Asian and Middle Eastern Summit, and LGBTQ+ Summit, said Ms. Hamilton, is to, “provide space for students to discuss issues relevant to race, gender and sexual identity.”
The summits allow students to “build and strengthen connections amongst themselves, ETHS educators, and the greater Evanston community,” Ms. Hamilton added.
All events are organized through partnerships with students, community members, and ETHS faculty and staff.
Black Summit: February 6 and 8
Three hundred thirty-two students attended the first day and 477 students attended the second day of the two-day Black Summit this year. Different from the previous two, this year’s Summit brought Black male and female students together; change participants said they would like to continue in the future. The 25 student planning committee members also worked hard to incorporate more student voices into the program, adding student performances and keynote speakers. Another change this year allowed students to pre-register for sessions for the two-day program.
For next year, post-event evaluations suggest trimming the content and lengthening all breakout sessions to at least an hour to allow more time for conversation. Some people also commented that upperclassmen and underclassmen should be in separate breakout sessions to promote dynamic conversations that take into consideration varying maturity levels.
LGBTQ+ Summit: March 2
A total of 223 students attended the LGBRQ+ Summit. More than three-fourths of the students who participated in the follow-up survey said they strongly agree that the summit was a safe and inclusive space. Responses showed that 48% “strongly agreed” the summit taught them more about themselves and the LGBTQ+ community and 78% “strongly agreed” the summit provided a space to appreciate their gender and/or sexual identities.
It was suggested that next year, the planners consider increasing the registration cap to allow more students to attend. Many students also expressed support for continuing to weave discussions of intersectionality into all workshops so every student would be exposed to it throughout the day, encouraging more students to join the planning committee, and lengthening workshops to allow more time for content exploration and discussion.
Latinx Summit: March 9
There were 295 students who attended the Latinx Summit. A post-event survey showed high marks for both the morning and the afternoon sessions. The favorite parts of the day for many were the afternoon dance, the keynote address by Jasmine Cardenas, and an art workshop. Students requested in the future there be more opportunity for open discussion in peer-led workshops and broader advertising to reach more students for pre-registration. Suggested workshop topics for next year include colorism in the Latinx community, history of Latinx movements in America and discussions about machismo and sexism.
Asian and Middle Eastern Summit: April 12
Attendance totaled 127 at this Asian and Middle Eastern Summit. An informal survey of participants suggested that there be more student-led workshops and spaces for students to share testimonies in the future. Students said they liked the open-mic format at the closing assembly and suggested using the summit to connect students to affinity-based student organizations at ETHS.
Parent Summit in the Works
Ms. Hamilton and Dr. Campbell told the Board the feedback has led to the planning of the first Parent Summit. Parents have asked for a workshop to include the history of racism in education. This summit will take shape over the summer.
In all of the summits, organizers seek to actively include student voice, said Ms. Hamilton. We are incorporating what we learn [at each summit] into our equity work.”
Board Member Pat Munsell applauded the programming, saying, “Student voice woven into equity is incredibly important to all efforts and that we’re proactively applying it is terrific.”
Board member Jude Laude recalled a defining moment at the Black Summit when students who attended from North Lawndale Prep, where he works, sat with ETHS students and “vocalized the same concerns and fears. It was powerful for them all to know they are not alone,” Mr. Laude said.
Board President Pat Savage-Williams said the summits “set a positive tone in the City.”
“All of our students are fragile and need to feel affirmed,” said Superintendent Eric Witherspoon. “This social series reaches out, helps students build a good relationship with school. This is really big.”