The Carver Five
At the transformation of traditional public school districts to non-traditional charter school districts in New Orleans, birthed a group of fearless student activists called the Carver Five known throughout the city as the C5!
These teen leaders challenged the Charter Management Organization that was taken over a local public high school George Washington Carver – on their policies and programs for the school. The C5 leaders began their journey by identifying issues by organizing students at Carver through a school-wide listening tour. After carefully processing the information, they decided to challenge the school administration with a list of demands. Those demands were, unfortunately, not accepted by the administration and considered not to be important enough to them for consideration.
The C5 decided to reach out to the GWC alumni and present them with their concerns and requested that they help them to organize a movement. They needed help with making Carver a place where every student would be treated as a scholar, and at the same time the legacy of this great institution of learning would be preserved and respected. After meeting with the GWC alumni, the C5 demanded a meeting with the CMO leadership team. During the meeting, they requested that the leadership team along with community leaders, Carver alumni, and school’s leadership team meet together and create a proposal so collectively they could move forward. Working together to make the changes that will create a place where students feel like students and not like prisoners in the building.
The C5’s activism resulted in the historical removal of school policies and programs such as the school hallways filled with lines that students were forced to stand on in order to “stay in a straight line” and two rooms called the restorative center which detained students who challenged these policies that were not effective but were viewed as a holding cell. Their activism also led to the creation of a student advisory team that worked in collaboration with GWC alumni, CMO network and the school principal in making sure that the transition to moving into the newly built school building included a redesigned restorative center, making it into a place where students would have a space to reflect. Also, school policies and programs were implemented that created an atmosphere where the students were engaged, and GWC is a place of learning and developing into productive leaders.
Today, the C5 and student body believe that the school administration is making progress. However, all parties agree that there is so much more to do! On a positive note, the C5 founders are all on their way to college! One is attending Morehouse, another Tuskegee University, and Howard University and the school’s overall student’s GPA is ranging between a 2.5 to 3.8 and 85% to 90% their seniors are accepted into college! So who says that our greatest treasure “our kids” voices do not matter! This is an example that each day as adult learners we will continue to see that it is a proven fact that “we are who we teach, and they become who we are” Leaders making a difference!
This story was written by Dr. Eric Jones, founder/CEO of EDNET, Inc., Program Director of External Affairs for Teach For America, Educational Consultant on School Culture.