By Meghan Devall, MSW Intern
I recently had the opportunity to attend the 2014 Educating Children of Color Seminar: YOUth Be the Change. The purpose of Educating Children of Color (ECOC) is to “dismantle the cradle to prison pipeline for children of color, and children in poverty, through education”. The ECOC annual summit brings noted speakers to Colorado Springs and awards laptops and scholarships to high school students. The all day summit is a great way for students, teachers, parents, and concerned citizens to collectively learn, become involved, and work towards common goals. The powerful conversations that take place in such places can be the starting point for change and inviting students to attend sends the message that they are a part of this conversation and their presence, input, and feedback is not only wanted, it is needed.
With a passion for social justice and political activism I often find myself contemplating the most effective way of getting a message to the masses. All too often it feels as though I’m “preaching to the choir”. However, as I sat in my first workshop: Academic Resilience and Cultural Competency, something shook me. The facilitator informed the participants that the workshop topic might be uncomfortable, yet having had many of these difficult conversations surrounding culture and the impact it can have on students, I knew I would not get uncomfortable. That is when it dawned on me: I, too, am a member of the proverbial choir. How can I work to expand my own audience when, as an audience member myself, I’m not branching out? Accepting the need for social action often times requires everyday citizens to step outside of their comfort zone and face the facts in sometimes unsettling ways. The ECOC summit was more than an eye opener; it brought over 1,000 local citizens from all walks together to face the facts and work towards eliminating the education gap and overrepresentation of our minority children and children of poverty in the judicial systems. However, for me personally, the ECOC summit reminded me that every citizen is a member of the audience and we all have a civic duty to participate in uncomfortable conversation – even if we consider ourselves activists.
If you’re interested in achievement gap data in Colorado Springs, the Summit provided summaries of important research, which you can find here.