A Great IDEA - FHHS Seeks More Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Advocacy

Posted on 05/16/2018
A Great IDEA - FHHS Seeks More Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Advocacy

Earlier this year, Francis Howell High School hosted the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Advocacy (IDEA) Summit, involving 30 students from Francis Howell, Francis Howell Central, and Francis Howell North High Schools. The National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ), an organization that leads similar activities throughout the St. Louis area, conducts the Anytown Youth Leadership Institute and facilitates the Gateway2Change cohort of several St. Louis areas high schools. FHHS took many lessons from the session, the most important of which is to take action.

Throughout these activities, the consistent focus was on breaking bias and building community. “The summit was an opportunity for students to explore their understanding of their experiences and those of the people around them,” said FHHS Principal Dr. Dave Wedlock. “The conversations expanded their awareness of bias in society, personalized the impact this unfairness can have and enabled students to develop greater empathy for others and themselves. Each high school’s team of students also developed next steps for growing their new understanding and abilities to develop positive relationships in their schools.”

Students sit in a Restorative Circle during the IDEA Summit at Francis Howell High School.Francis Howell High School is turning this learning into a focus on restorative practices. “This involves assimilating this learning with efforts to build high functioning, positive learning environments where all students contribute and assert their voice in the learning process,” said Wedlock.

The students, themselves, aren’t taking this opportunity for growth for granted. Ben Hahs, junior class president, said, “The IDEA Summit was a great meeting and it really provided me with a better understanding of my peers’ points of view. It gave me a better perspective of the world outside of my own little comfort zone.”

True positive change can only be affected by collaboration. Students like junior Olivia Lashley cherished being able to talk about the topics in a safe environment. “The IDEA Summit was a good place to get people together and talk about real topics and issues,” Lashley said. “It was eye-opening to see what people thought about certain issues going on in the real world.” 

The summit gave students a chance to speak their minds about these important topics, but also the opportunity to listen to views they knew nothing about. “I think the IDEA Summit was a great way for everyone to express their views on real-world issues that most people don’t realize,” said Estevan Hutchinson, a junior. “It also opened my eyes to the struggles of other minority groups who experienced similar things as I have, and that was also comforting to realize that I wasn’t the only one.”

“I thought the IDEA Summit was a good way to give students from all schools in the District an understanding of all minority groups and bring those ideas back to their schools,” said Kennedy Fortner, emphasizing the need to put these lessons into action.

Hutchinson agrees, that not just understanding each other but also standing up for each other when the time comes, is better than talk. A little empathy can go a long way. He said, “I hope our thoughts and ideas from this summit will be reflected in our schools.”

The first step to change is recognizing that change is needed. And now FHHS will take the second step and work to find solutions.

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