Student leaders work to close achievement gap

2016 MSAN Conference attendees were (from left): Jalen Chesney, Jaylin Coleman, Mikaiah Truitt, Josephine Johnson and Hasson Lewis-Majied. (Also attending, but not pictured: Tessa Green.)

Six student leaders in Heights High’s Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN) attended the organization’s national conference, Oct. 12–15, in Chapel Hill, N.C. The students brought back with them ideas and renewed energy to address the achievement gap between students of color and their white peers.

“The conference gives us a chance to learn from the successes of other districts, share our successes and get energized about the work,” said Shawn Washington, MSAN adviser. (Nate Williams and O’Dasha Johnson are co-advisers.)

The Heights High MSAN club has 60 members.

The conference offered opportunities to listen to keynote speakers, tour the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University, attend the MSAN alumni forum, and participate in ice-breaker activities. It also dedicated time during which attendees created an action plan for this year’s work.

The Heights High team’s action plan comprises three main activities: Creating school Unity Days with fun activities to introduce students from different school clubs to one another; a Man Up program with adult mentors to encourage and guide young men; and a Tea Time activity for young women that would include mentoring and guidance.

Heights High’s MSAN leaders are excited to implement their action plan, and returned to school with a renewed focus for creating social change.

Hasson Lewis-Majied, a junior who attended the conference, was inspired by one of the guest speakers, Robert T. Stephens. “Hearing Mr. Stephens talk about his life and leadership made me want to be a leader and to act when I see something that is wrong,” he said.

“Life changing” was how Josephine Johnson, also a junior, described the conference. “It motivated me even more to make a difference in my school, not just to show up but to really have an impact,” she said. “Something that I realized was the power of relationships—especially between teachers and students.”

The MSAN group’s work is part of the CH-UH City School District’s five-year strategic plan. Its goal #2 addresses the achievement gap. The number of students in Advanced Placement (AP) courses has increased, and support for students in AP courses has helped maintain these numbers.

Last year, MSAN students hosted “I am AP” during lunch periods, providing students interested in learning about AP courses with the opportunity to speak with MSAN students enrolled in them.

In mid-August, the school hosted an AP Boot Camp for students enrolled in AP courses, focusing on academic preparation as well as organizational and study skills needed to succeed in AP courses.

MSAN formed in 1999, with CH-UH and Shaker Heights as founding [school district] members. The organization comprises 26 school districts in suburban-urban communities that come together to understand and eliminate the opportunity and achievement gaps that persist in schools.

Joy Henderson

Joy Henderson is the parent/community liaison for Heights High.

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Volume 9, Issue 12, Posted 11:19 AM, 11.30.2016