What others have proposed, Mary K. Boyd, Gevonne Ford, Mary Cathryn Ricker and others have created. The “Every Body’s In” coalition, which recently held a series of meetings in Minneapolis and St. Paul, is a multi-racial collaboration that includes educators from district and charter public schools, policy-makers, community and union activists along with students. They’re all together, working hard for Twin Cities youngsters. I saw this at a recent, amazing Saturday morning of the steadily expanding group.
Gevonee Ford, Founder and Executive Director of the Network for the Development of Children of African Descent, and one of the coalition’s organizers told me, “It was a powerful discussion that lifted up and helped us all recognize the great work that’s already happening in various spheres and sectors. It allowed us to how to connect the dots and then how to we move forward in a collected, coordinated fashion that helps us develop the whole. It was a truly inspiring to see that everybody ‘got in.”
Mary K Boyd, a veteran Twin City public school educator who also helped organize the meeting, explained, “Feedback from the participants identified this endeavor as a movement, a transformational shift from blaming and criticizing to connecting and strategizing about how to work together across barriers and challenges to care enough to support every child’s need and successes.” Boyd and Ford are pictured above.
Mary Cathryn Ricker, president of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers also helped organize the meeting. She commented, “I found Saturday’s forum to be inspiring. Inspiring because of the passionate people in the room and inspiring because the message was one of collaboration among all educators on behalf of our children. That asset-based way of looking at everyone who is involved in supporting and educating our children was refreshing. The meeting felt like a catalyst for all kinds of possibilities.”
Tony Simmons, co-director of High School for Recording Arts, a St. Paul charter, was one of about 150 people who attended the Saturday meeting. He told me this kind of collaboration “is essential to the future of urban education. The challenges we face as professional educators require each member of the community to play some role in helping to educate our young people.”
Boyd praised Debra Landvik of the Minnesota Department of Education, who arranged for the meeting to be held, rent free, at the department. It’s an example of how different people can bring various resources together.
Dr. JuanCarlos Arauz, a college professor and activist, provided a remarkable presentation…showing how people of color often have to be “several people.” He graphically, humorously and skilled demonstrated the differences in language he uses for example, while teaching college classes and meeting with community members. Arauz directs E3: Education, Excellence, & Equity.
Minnesota State Senator Patricia Torres-Rey also attended and strongly supported the group’s work.
The Saturday meeting was one of several held over a few days, with encouragement and assistance from veteran educator Dr. Patricia Moore Harbour. After decades of experience as an urban public school teacher and administrator, Harbour now works with the Kettering Foundation.
She’s written a book, Community Educators A Resource for Educating and Developing our Youth. She writes, “What has compelled my passion is a burning desire and commitment to insuring that all human beings, especially young people, have the opportunity to be all they can be.” She recalls that growing up decades ago as an African American in Roanoke, Virginia, “….”More people than I could possibly mention contributed to my young life and development. Perhaps most important, the people in my community taught me to believe in myself. Neighbors, family, friends, local leaders, both black and white in this segregated community inspired me to lead and to achieve.” She cites, teachers, a Girl Scout Leader, and a family friend.”
Harbour also points out that “Peer learning is also important. A teenager taught me to ride my bicycle when I was five.” This belief that young people can help each other, and adults, was part of the rationale for including them as meetings, as partners. Every Body’s In organizers wisely understand that many young people have insights, energy and creativity that can help make a difference.
Harbour agrees that improving schools is important. But as she wrote, “To achieve sustainable, long term transformation, the community must be meaningfully involved.”
Boyd agrees. She had a career that including directing a local Street Academy, as well as being a St. Paul Public School administrator, interim college of education dean, and many other responsibilities. In a chapter appearing in Habour’s book, Boyd points out that a mentoring program, and a youth drum and drill program helped many youngsters with whom she worked at the Street Academy. She’s already held follow-up conversations with others who want to join this effort.
Boyd concludes, “Education is more than schooling.” I agree. This is one of the more hopeful, inclusive efforts I’ve seen in a long time. People interested in becoming part of “Every Body’s In” can contact Boyd at email@example.com
Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions welcome, firstname.lastname@example.org