A Paradigm Shift: Students take a stand and demand their voices are heard

We Could Learn A Lot from These Kids

I was invited to G.W. Carver High School to meet with Dr. Eric Jones and to tour the new multimillion-dollar building located in the lower ninth ward of New Orleans. Dr. Jones was intrigued with my motivational journal “Vision Book”, but I was more intrigued with his accomplishments and the schools he managed— specifically Carver Charter high school. When I was initially asked to come and visit Carver Charter High School, saying I was hesitant would be an understatement. The only reference I had was the way I remembered it twenty plus years ago. And the memories weren’t very good ones.

I expressed to Dr. Jones my reluctance to visit the school and he quickly simmered those doubts. He described the new campus with enthusiasm. He bragged about his awesome educators and gleamed with pride speaking about the students. He affectionately referred to them as scholars.

By the end of our meeting, I had not only agreed to visit the school, but I was actually looking forward to it. That’s the kind of positive energy Dr. Jones exudes.

I arrived at G.W. Carver Charter High School the very next day. To my surprise, the school is huge and state of the art—especially for a school located in an area devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Still, more than a decade later and with some revitalization in that area—some would still call it “the hood.”

You can’t help but to be impressed when you step foot on the grounds of this campus. I most certainly was impressed. However, I was most impressed with the kids. They were pleasant, engaging, and seemed to truly enjoy being there. I must admit—that was somewhat shocking. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a school where kids appeared to be happy and inspired. Maybe it was the encouraging and inspirational words plastered throughout the school on the walls and doors. Maybe it was the “no rules, only responsibilities” policy. Maybe it was the staff that the students actually assisted administrators in selecting. Maybe it was the mutual respect between the students and educators. Maybe it was the genuine care and concern Dr. Jones had for his scholars and the gratitude they reciprocated. Maybe it wasn’t any of those things.

It simply could have been educators and administrators allowing students to be heard. Or maybe it was the students who demanded that their voices be heard. These kids who had been labeled “high-risk” students were in fact showing themselves to be highly intelligent scholars. They didn’t just demand their voices be heard with a bunch of noise and no action. They insisted on it being heard by meeting with administrators, staff, board members and other decision makers. The student ambassadors (5 students selected by the student body) presented demands made by the students. By conveying their concerns and issues in a respectful, professional, yet assertive manner—pretty much all of their demands were reasonably met.

Negotiations were civil, peaceful, and effective. The efforts resembled those seen with successful boycott. Overall, the parties involved seem to have left the negotiation room all on the same page. No grudges. No egos. No rules. There were only responsibilities and mutual respect for one another.

We could all learn a lot from these “scholars.”

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