High School Diversity Institute
“Raising Our Voices,” the Intergroup Dialogue Program’s High School Diversity Institute, is a collaborative partnership between faculty and teaching staff from Syracuse University’s Intergroup Dialogue Program and two Central New York high school English teachers that began in Spring 2006. The teachers, from a local urban school district and suburban district, co-developed elective courses focused on the rhetoric of race and cultural voices at their respective high schools. These courses developed out of student interest that continues to grow each semester, and they have received state-level recognition for their development and significance. Once a year, students who take these courses come together at Syracuse University for the High School Institute.
Hosting the institute on our campus represents an important opportunity for the Intergroup Dialogue Program to implement the vision of Scholarship in Action. We view this as an opportunity to partner with area teachers to further educate students, and promote and support social justice pedagogy and practices on our campus and in our local communities.
The most recent institute was held on March 31, 2011 in the Schine Student Center and was attended by 86 students. Over ten faculty, administrative staff, and graduate student members from various SU departments – including the Intergroup Dialogue team, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Partnership for Better Education, Cultural Foundations of Education, and Reading and Language Arts – facilitated small cross-school groups of approximately six to eight students. The day began with students sharing personal “I Am From” poems followed by the creation of collective poems, building community and shared identity. Campus faculty and staff members presented to students focusing on the power of poetry to express voice and impact others. In the afternoon, students worked in their groups to create social action proposals. Students requested that our program share samples of their collective work, and thus public letters from the collaborative action proposal activity are posted through Professor Lopez’s engaged scholarship EDU781SU website focused on “Critical Lessons & Educational Change.” In this way, and others, these students in turn continue to educate others and us.
In an evaluation study, the high school student participants expressed engagement with the institute content, the speakers, and with their fellow students. Offering feedback about their experience at the institute, students offered words including “meaningful,” “exciting,” “wonderful,” “beneficial,” and “enjoyable.” They also indicated an eagerness to attend the institute again. Students, teachers, the IGD team, and our campus partners all noted that the institute is a significant opportunity for local high school students and teachers to work together to take up issues of identity, race, and voice. Working together, the local high school students and teachers, along with the IGD team and campus community members, spent the institute day collectively “Raising our Voices” for school equity and social justice. For more information on students’ evaluations of the High School Diversity Institute see Lopez, G. E., & Nastasi, A. W. (2012). Writing the divide: High school students crossing urban-suburban contexts, Equity & Excellence in Education, 45(1), 138-158.
This first offering of the high school institute was featured in a news article circulated through the Syracuse University School of Education:
- Snyder, Matthew R. (2006, Spring). Raising our voices. Education Exchange.