While the School District of Philadelphia cites violence as one of the criteria used in determining which schools to close, Truebright Science Academy Charter School has teamed up with anti-gun violence and victim support organization Mothers In Charge for a proactive, school-based mentoring effort to quell violent tendencies before they become full-blown violent skirmishes.
Organizers of the program, “Become the Change,” identified at-risk Truebright students and worked with their parents in getting them to sign up, said Truebright assistant to the head of high schools Jade Edwards, who also serves as organizer of the mentor program.
“At the beginning of the school year, we have had quite a few issues with kids fighting and being argumentative, and we wanted to get them to understand that every issue does not have to be confrontational,’ Edwards said, noting that the school initially identified 50 students for the program, and received positive interest from 26 of them. “So we reached out to Mothers In Charge to see how they could help. We wanted a program that provided the tools to improve the student’s academic outcomes.
“We wanted an all-around socio-emotional approach to help students find the right message to help them cope with things going on in their lives,” Edwards continued. “We are trying to build critical thinkers, and for our students to become the change we want to see all across the country.”
Truebright CEO Bekir Duz voiced optimism for the project, noting that anti-violence measures only truly work when the whole student is considered.
“As we continue to look for ways to make our schools safer, we realize that all of the security measures in the world are useless if we overlook our students in the process,” Duz said. “We are thrilled to partner with such an active and impactful group such as Mothers In Charge to provide strong role models to the Truebright student body.”
The “Become the Change” program is a 12-week program in which students meet twice-weekly for 90 minutes. Edwards noted that there will be a graduation at the end of the program, so at least two dozen of Truebright’s eighth-grade students will enjoy two graduations come summer.
“The program has guest speakers and down time for students to talk individually to facilitators about something personal,” Edwards said. “After initial resistance, the students have been very receptive.
“Some of the students we’ve identified have had family members pass away or some that were murdered,” Edwards added. “And some of the students are children of Mothers In charge members, so as their parents are being involved [on the anti-violence issue] on the outside, this is way for the kids to be involved inside our school.”
Mothers in Charge Founder Dorothy Speight-Johnson echoed much of what Edwards said. Earlier in the week, Speight-Johnson attended the Mayors Against illegal Guns campaign and met with first lady Michelle Obama on the issue.
“Violence affects not only [traditional] public schools, but charters as well. We have a great relationship with Truebright and did our presentation,” Speight-Johnson said from D.C. “We meet with the students every Monday and Wednesday to teach them life skills and conflict resolution.
“We hope these students begin to think of another way to handle conflict and anger,” Speight-Johnson continued. “Gin violence comes from arguments, so we want to get the students to understand how to communicate with one another, think differently – and to think, for a change. There is a way to handle conflicts.”