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A Glimpse at the Work of Just Communities: Summer Recap

CommUnity Leadership Institute (CLI) 2012

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"I feel that not only do I want to dismantle oppression for others but also for myself. I understand that I cannot just assume things will change. I have to take action." .- CLI Participant 2012

Just Communities is honored to have supported another generation of youth leaders on the Central Coast through the CommUnity Leadership Institute. Held August 4-11th at Ojai Valley School, the 8-day institute was attended by participants from Santa Barbara High Schools as well as Santa Maria, Carpinteria, Ventura, Fillmore, and Oxnard.

Participants left the institute committed to tackling issues such as police profiling of youth, promoting inclusion and acceptance of LGBT identities, promoting recognition and respect for indigenous identities, and making college entrance test materials affordable for students regardless of family income or economic status.

For recruitment and institute preparation, Just Communities is grateful to have partnered with Easy Lift Transportation, One Step A La Vez Fillmore, Santa Barbara High School, San Marcos High School, Dos Pueblos High School, Palabra in Santa Barbara, Trinity Episcopal Church, Rincon High School in Carpinteria, and the Tequio Youth Group from the Mixteco/Indigena Organizing Project in Oxnard.

Just Communities also thanks THRIVE Westside for sponsoring a team of Westside youth, including youth from San Marcos High School and Palabra, to attend CLI.

We will continue to support this year's graduates of CLI through CLI CAN DO (Change Agent Network for Dismantling Oppression), a network of past CLI graduates and community change agents. Through CAN DO, this newest cohort of change agents will be connected with resources and given guidance on creating the positive changes for justice they were inspired to make at CLI 2012. We look forward to their great work!

Institute for Equity in Education (IEE) 2012

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"Just Communities provided education I needed to recognize the roots of the achievement gap, support to create a concrete action plan to address it in my classroom, and confidence that I can be an agent of change in a system that has long perpetuated inequity." .-IEE Participant 2012

Twenty participants representing elementary, junior high, and high schools in Lompoc, Oxnard, Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Santa Maria, attended the 5-day residential IEE. The participants included administrators, teachers, advisors, and youth services specialists. IEE took place from June 25 through June 29th at La Casa de Maria Retreat Center in Montecito.

Participants learned about the 3 R's (Relevance, Rigor, and Relationships), the Achievement Gap, the History of U.S. Public Education, and Dynamics of Oppression, among other topics. Program highlights included the Student Panel, comprised of CLI graduates, and the Family Panel, comprised of parents from Just Communities' Family Dialogue. The panelist shared their experiences with schools, the achievement gap, and offered opinions about school connectedness.

The participants developed Action Plans for building connected learning communities with students and parents; to improve academic achievement by addressing the 3 R's, as well as the 4th R: Racial Justice; to develop culturally proficiency via the curriculum; to provide positive academic narratives for all students; and to achieve equitable measures of discipline through Restorative Justice.

Just Communities will continue to support the IEE Graduates as they refine their goals, set their timelines, and determine measures of success.

BTSA: the Equity Strand


Just Communities worked with the Santa Barbara County Education Office's BTSA program to provide a series of seminars to address "Universal Access: Equity for All Students," aka the Equity Strand. BTSA is a state-funded induction program co-sponsored by the California Department of Education and the Commission on Teacher Credentialing. BTSA is designed to support the professional development of newly-credentialed beginning teachers and to fulfill the requirements for the California Clear Multiple and Single Subjects Credentials. Approximately 80 teachers each received 4 to 9 hours of Just Communities' training in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria.

Essential Questions included: What do I understand about myself - my beliefs, actions, values - that shape my actions as a culturally competent educator? As a culturally competent teacher, how will I build a learning partnership with my students as a pathway to support their deeper learning?

The first session focused on the 4 R's, Constructivist Listening, and Exploring Our Cultural Awareness. The second session focused on the Achievement Gap and Building Learning Partnerships and included a student panel, which was primarily comprised of CLI graduates. The third session focused on the Safe Schools presentation, in collaboration with Pacific Pride.

Family Dialogue Program: Students Succeed When Schools and Families Work Together

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"I think this program has the potential to create a movement of parents in the public school system that evaluate some of the things that don't work in the current school system (achievement gap, discrimination, bullying, lack of parent involvement, etc.) and work with the school and other community resources to fix/improve them.".-Family Dialogue Isla Vista 2012 Participant

Just Communities facilitated nine, two-hour sessions of the Family Dialogue Program with the Isla Vista Youth Projects (Thrive IV) and Isla Vista School. The program brought together a diverse group of parents to address issues of academic inequity. The sessions were conducted bilingually with simultaneous interpretation.

Just Communities' facilitators and interpretersworked to empower parents with knowledge about the academic achievement gap and equip them with leadership skills for developing an action plan to improve schools for students' overall success. Program objectives included building trust and connections among a diverse group of parents; deepening their understanding of the causes of the achievement gap, exploring effective strategies to promote equity in education, and developing and presenting an action plan. The parents' action plan focused on increasing parent involvement to promote academic equity and success for all students. School, district, and community leaders were completely impressed by the passionate leadership the parents demonstrated through the presentation of their action plan.

In describing the overall impact of this program, some of the comments the parents made included:

"The program had very strong, positive impact on the participating parents, helping them collaboratively develop an action plan and present it in front of members of the community. I believe every parent in our group felt empowered and gained more confidence speaking and presenting their point of view.".-Family Dialogue Isla Vista 2012 Participant

"I like this program because I feel it gives me strength to keep going with the different schools that my children are attending and also to help other families and students.".-Family Dialogue Isla Vista 2012 Participant

"The biggest impact for me was that I met other parents like me who have the same interest and that it had great impact in the community, a positive impact.".-Family Dialogue Isla Vista 2012 Participant

"I think this program gives us the opportunity to achieve what we really want to achieve and it gives us the help we need to realize our dreams, I always believe dreams can come true.".-Family Dialogue Isla Vista 2012 Participant

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