Over the past few weeks in West Virginia, Katelyn Damron and I have been leading the Rise Up West Virginia: Youth Working Group (renaming in progress). We are the co-chairs of this working group and are being mentored by Savanna Lyons. This has been and continues to be, an amazing opportunity for us and young leadership in general. The purpose of our group is essentially leadership for young people by young people. Our group decided to work on better conditions in our local schools. This was in response to mass suspensions at Capital High School and unfair punishment. While Katelyn and I aren’t in a traditional Kanawha County Schools secondary school, we still have connections to it through friends and family. Through weekly meetings and partnership with Deanna McKinney, we went through the steps that come in activism.
First, we identified our issues with the schools. Just to name a few, these included disrespect of students, blatant disregard of student mental health, unequal application of the rules, and a student handbook so dense that it is nearly impossible to understand your rights as the student. After this, we came up with solutions we would like to see implemented in schools. These include restorative justice, disciplinary practices, fairness, respect, training, and support. We presented these proposals along with a few others at a forum with school officials. Among those in attendance, we had the ear of the superintendent and the principal of Capital High School.
Toward the end of this project, the dynamic became youth supported instead of youth lead. This led to some discontent and disappointment among our members. This was a wonderful growing experience. In the weeks following the forum, we discussed how we want adult allies to interact with us as leaders, reflection and took some time to regroup. It is always important to celebrate the end of an endeavor. We are learning facilitation tools and how to organize a group while in between projects. We would appreciate your support going forward to help better this area of Appalachia and empower young leaders.
You can reach out to me at Asbadger01@gmail.com to find out how to plug in with us or to find out what we’re doing or just to chat (my birthday is 4/28!).
- A'Nya Badger
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