Below is an edited version of remarks presented by Boston Student Advisory Council members Fania Joseph and Kenny Feng at “A Dialogue on Race,” a conference hosted by Teen Empowerment, in Boston, in March.
FJ: Race matters when it comes to education. We want to see more teachers of color in our schools. Eighty-six percent of Boston Public Schools students identify as black, Latino, or Asian, but only 37 percent of the teachers in the district are teachers of color. This is a problem across the whole country, and it impacts how and what we learn.
KF: Race also matters when it comes to school discipline. According to BPS data from 2014-2015, 7.6 percent of black students and 4.4 percent of Latino students received out-of-school suspensions, compared to 1.5 percent of their white peers.
FJ: This is a huge part of the school-to- prison pipeline that we want to put an end to.
KF: In October, BSAC did a Listening Project and talked to around 300 Boston students about their experiences with school discipline and zero-tolerance policies. Students who had been suspended said it made them feel “not human,” “like they were getting bullied,” and like they did not “want to try at all.”
FJ: This is not OK. BSAC and others
have worked hard to pass laws so that in most cases, out-of-school suspension is
a last resort and that schools have to try alternatives rst, like restorative justice. Circle practice is a form of a restorative justice that can be used to repair harms in a community. Individuals sit in a circle and develop solutions together through conversation.
KF: Come talk to us after for more information and to get one of our student rights cards.
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Cover Story
Hope
AFH ARTWORK
Despite a rampage of foreign and domestic troubles, Mageney Omar, a sophomore at the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science, says she is confident about tomorrow -- and the days after.
“I’m still very hopeful about the world we live in because I know that we have built a strong foundation that cannot be torn down easily,” she says. “The US has strong leaders who are not going to fail the people.”
Barack Obama appealed to many young people in 2008 with his candidate’s message of hope and change.
However, much has changed on the hope front since Obama became president:
ISIS and their bombings and beheadings. Doomsday displays of North Korean nukes. Unrelenting climate unrest. Crazier than ever, out- of-control college costs.
Donald J. Trump.
“I’m not hopeful because no amount of hope will change the bad things happening,” says Kiana Mclean, a sophomore at the O’Bryant.
Yet many teens and their peers say they remain fervent in their faith about the future.
A survey last year of young people born between 1996 and 2000 discovered that 65 percent of these so-called Generation Z members, from 46 countries, felt at ease going forward, according to the global research firm Universum.
Of course, other surveys say, these are not the wide-eyed, teenage optimists of yesterday but, rather, more of a group of eyes-wide-open realists.
Their gritty, tough-it-out attitudes can be seen in a 2014 Northeastern University report that found: Even as the financial burdens of future education weighed heavily on teens, 65 percent understood that the value of a degree was worth the monetary sacrifice.
Many in this generation say they believe that positivity can go a long way in dealing with devastating current events, a position that, observers say, also manifests in the youth’s maturity and insistence on equality for all.
“You can focus on the bad stuff but that isn’t everything in your life,” says Alejandro Melguizo, a sophomore at the O’Bryant. “If you can see the good, you can survive.”
For many students, the realization that there’s a big, bad ball of misery out there doesn’t terrify them.
It just makes them want to change things up.
“I know there are people that are homeless, starving, or in a worse condition than I am,” says Rayven Frierson, a sophomore at the O’Bryant. “Yet I live life with a positive mind-set. I have faith that the world will realize their mistakes and fix it.”
This article was prepared in collaboration with 826 Boston.
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