Cultural Change Led By Students
Young people spend a lot of time in school. By fostering an environment of social and racial equity in school communities, we can achieve far reaching impacts for young people outside the classroom, extending into their neighborhood, town or city. This area of our programming is united through a shared focus on addressing inequity in outcomes for students of color, poor and working-class students, LGBTQ students and indigenous students. We approach equity with the understanding that by improving the environments and systems young people have daily contact with, we see positive change and better outcomes for students.
Micro-Funding for Racial Affinity Groups
Black Student Unions and other racial affinity groups continue to express need for financial support, training, and other resources for their student members and adult advisors. In response, MYAN is offering micro funding opportunities to middle and high school groups, and applicants will also be invited to an annual racial affinity group congress.
During the 2020 calendar year, MYAN will make available up to $3,500 for prospective student leaders, racial affinity groups, and/or their adult advisors in increments of no more than $500. Eligible applications will outline social or educational event programming, travel for social or educational opportunities, and other costs directly tied to the groups’ missions.
This micro funding initiative will better position middle and high school racial affinity groups to reach their goals. Our further hope is that these funds will allow student leaders to establish their organizational presence and leverage additional connections and funding – such as school extracurricular budgets.
Equity Through a Restorative Lens
Restorative practices are rooted in First Nation and indigenous community traditions and philosophies. Restorative models are increasingly being explored by criminal justice and education institutions as an alternative to existing punitive systems. In school communities, these models are being used to create effective and appropriate responses to harmful behavior. A formal model is one way that schools can incorporate restorative principles.
MYAN programming compliments formal restorative models by helping young people cultivate the foundational skills of restorative practices, better preparing students to participate in – and lead! – equity-focused cultural shifts in their schools.
MYAN uses restorative principles and practices in our partnerships with youth and adults; this approach strengthens our individual relationships, fosters inclusive communities and exemplifies holistic prevention at its best.
Building Inclusive Student Communities
Restorative principles can help us build more inclusive communities. MYAN provides support for community building through an introductory training program for middle and high school students. Building Inclusive Student Communities is a two-step program—first young people receive introductory training on the foundations of restorative practices and then actively apply those skills through a youth-led project that benefits their school community. In the process, students strengthen communication skills, deepen their ties to the community and boost their awareness of social challenges experienced by fellow students.
Youth participate in a seven-part training series (around four and a half hours total) that explicitly targets commercial tobacco and vaping as an entryway into restorative practices and critical thinking. After completing their training, the group is supported in demonstrating their new skills with a project to promote restorative values and inclusive community building in their school. Our trainings are facilitated by MYAN’s staff or our network partners, who then provide guidance and support to students and their advisors during the project phase.
The OPEN Project
Formed in 2015, the OPEN Project originally operated out of the Parkside Neighborhood Center in Portland and partnered with multilingual students from the Parkside neighborhood on racial and social justice organizing efforts. Because of rapid gentrification in Portland, within a year nearly every engaged student and their families had relocated to new neighborhoods. Student leaders refocused and grew the program to include several summer internship projects in partnership with Gateway to Opportunity, production of informational videos and numerous presentations at state and national conferences – including Free Minds Free People (2018) and the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund Rootskills (2018). MYAN staff currently offer ongoing mentoring and networking support to OPEN Project alumni who remain active and engaged in their communities and college campuses.
Educational equity is OPEN’s primary focus, determined by a multi-year youth participatory action research project that investigated the barriers to multilingual students accessing education in Portland. Focus groups including over 150 multilingual students, interviews with administrators representing all three public high schools in Portland, and personal reflections from the researchers themselves were some of the methods youth used to gather data. Student leaders used this data to create written recommendations and an accompanying video to share with city councilors, school board members, school administrators and MYAN staff in a series of dialogues.