Tuesday, September 12, 2017

MSAN Kickoff

During the first week of the school year, 26 high school students gathered at Phoenix Academy for an evening kickoff meeting of the Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN). In little more than two hours, the young people shared introductions, ate dinner, reflected on the past year’s accomplishments and began looking ahead to the many activities already planned for 2017-2018. Representing newcomers and veterans, the three larger high schools and all four grade levels, the students laughed and joked together, even as they worked steadily through a full agenda.

Niya Fearrington, student body president at Carrboro High School, is a passionate advocate for MSAN. “It’s truly been a catalyst for my life… learning how to advocate for student voice.” She says her friends in different Triangle school districts ask how they can develop MSAN groups, too, but for now, CHCCS has the lone chapter in North Carolina.
The national MSAN mission, embraced by the district’s chapter, is “to understand and change school practices and structures that keep racial achievement gaps in place.” MSAN school districts tend to share a tradition of high academic achievement with connections to university communities: Madison, Cambridge, Evanston -- and Chapel Hill-Carrboro.
One of the national goals of MSAN is to create and share professional development activities for teachers and administrators, with a clear equity lens. Last year the CHCCS group developed a workshop for teachers and staff called “Classroom in Color,” which they rolled out in June at the Summer Institute for Professional Learning. Plans for this year’s activities include new venues and audiences for “Classroom in Color;” one version will be delivered in Spanish during the Dignity in Schools National Week of Action.
Niya says that she and her fellow scholars are excited about finding bigger stages for sharing the workshop. As a CHCCS “lifer,” kindergarten through senior year, Niya says she and other presenters found it especially rewarding to recognize former teachers, assistant principals and principals in their audiences. “It was exciting to show off our progress over the years.”
Last fall this student organization hosted the national three-day conference at the Chapel Hill Sheraton. The high school participants from 19 districts nation-wide evaluated last year’s conference as highly successful and inclusive.  This October, a dozen scholars will travel to Cleveland, Ohio to attend the annual conference and to reconnect with friends in the network, as they hone their action plans for the coming year. The theme is F.O.C.U.S. - Fighting Our Cause Unified in the Struggle.

Advisor Lorie Clark says, “Our students understand the concepts of systems but have learned to use their voice to fight for equity and a quality education for all students.”
Lorie Clark and Marlow Artis of Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocates supervise the district MSAN group, under the direction of Equity department’s Dr. Sheldon Lanier. To find out more about MSAN, visit http://msan.wceruw.org/index.html.