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Student Leaders Forge Ahead on “Front Door” Campaign

March 29, 2011

Courtesy of S.T.E.P. Up DC

S.T.E.P. Up DC  is a grantee of The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region’s Collaborative for Education Organizing (CEO) initiative, supported by national and regional funders.  CEO grants support systemic organizing of low-income youth and families — an essential part of influencing public and charter school programs, as well as policies that impact the academic and social development of children of color.  Below is S.T.E.P. Up DC’s account of a recent such meeting at Roosevelt High School.

Last Monday, more than 70 student leaders, classmates, parents, teachers, and community members packed the Parent Family and Community Resource Center of Roosevelt HS to support a student-led action aimed at opening Roosevelt’s front entrance.  For the last four months S.T.E.P. Up DC has been organizing with a core group of student leaders at the school around the issue of providing staff, students and the community a safe and dignified entrance to the school.  For years, students, teachers and visitors have been forced to enter the building through the back door, which is accessible by only a car- and bus-filled alleyway next to the school’s dumpsters and loading dock.  As one student leader, Jacquan, put it, “It’s an issue of dignity to have a school of mostly African American and Hispanic students walk through the back door of a school.”

Prior to this action, students conducted research to flesh out their proposal, including meeting with a local contractor to calculate cost estimates for cosmetic renovations and installing a buzzer. The student leaders also identified Cluster 10 Superintendent John Davis, Director of Security John Harris and Roosevelt Principal Ivor Mitchell as the key decision-makers around this issue.

In last Monday’s standing-room-only meeting, student leaders outlined their rationale and proposal for opening the front door, and one-by-one got public commitments from each decision-maker to:

  • Open the front door of the high school within the next 90 days.
  • Work with the student leaders to find the funds to put a buzzer at the front entrance.
  • Schedule a follow-up meeting with the student leaders in the next 30 days to discuss their progress.

Angela, one of the Roosevelt students leading this effort, described her experience: “I was kind of nervous.  This was my first time every taking an action on such a high level. When people began to come into the room to show their support I felt more calm. Looking around I was remember thinking, ‘Wow all these people support us. Cool.’ From this action I’ve learned that people is what gives power. Money does, too. But having people behind you supporting you is the best power you can have. I just can’t wait until the door is open.”

This is certainly a BIG win for the students at Roosevelt, but the work isn’t over until they can walk through the front doors of their school!  Stay tuned…

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