Throughout the history of mankind, people have the need to belong in the community in which they live. The importance of belonging is vital in a school community and is especially important for learning. Our goal is to educate students so they can leave high school and pursue their passions and dreams. Students should leave high school with a well-rounded education that includes an understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our country trusts educational institutions to develop a sense of belonging for all our students by providing a well-rounded high school experience. At Lakes Community High School and in Community High School District 117, we have invested time and resources to develop a sense of belonging in our students. To develop that sense of belonging, we need to ensure that all students are treated fairly, feel respected for who they are, have an opportunity to express themselves, and have equitable access to challenging curriculum. Below are ways in which we provide students equitable opportunities, forums to express their views, and opportunities to share their life experiences.
Diversity Dialogue Group
This is the third year that this group helps to provide a voice to all students who want to get involved.
The group shared with faculty some of their positive and negative experiences in school. They also met with the full faculty twice and ended up producing a video that we eventually shared with the entire student body. The teachers were provided with PD on how to handle diversity-based conversations in their classrooms. The teachers were also given information with helpful hints on responding to tension. The group will be moving their focus from providing a voice for students to providing education for staff and students on diversity.
Student Diversity Ambassadors
This group of students meets once a week to increase awareness in diversity, equity, and inclusion. The goal of this group is to, “Facilitate and increase the presence of inclusion and acceptance at Lakes High School.” This group brings diversity, equity, and inclusion to the forefront of Lakes through student-centered activities.
Throughout the year, students have been designing diversity-focused videos that either provide an individual perspective or ask questions about the history of diversity in the United States. The most recent production was included in our Eagle Eye News and a question posed to teachers and students on Dr. Martin Luther King’s MountainTop Speech from 1963.
The Student Diversity Ambassadors on February 1st streamed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Panel Discussion with a group of community members, teachers, and students. We are fortunate to have Marvin Bembry, a member of the Lake Villa Community, on our panel; Mr. Bembry brings a vast amount of personal experience and knowledge to our work in District 117.
Deep Equity Institute
This is an outside agency that is working with the district. The focus is to train around 30 staff members to be trainers on culturally competent and culturally responsive classrooms. We have completed three full days of professional development with one more day scheduled for February 26th, 2021. Before Covid-19 changed our educators’ lives so much, we conducted several school-wide activities that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the classroom. These staff trainings on culturally competent and culturally responsive classrooms will continue to be incorporated until they become a part of our daily practice.
Equal Opportunity to High Level Curriculum
For the last four years, we have worked hard to provide equitable access to our upper level and AP classes. We promote our upper level curriculum to all students and look for ways to personally invite students who have traditionally been under-represented in these classes to enroll in these classes.
David B. Newberry
Lakes Community High School