Monday, November 16, 2015

South Kingstown School Committee Public Meeting

For my Social Work Policy class, I was asked to attend a public meeting and write about my experience. As an individual that is not only a Youth Development major, but a South Kingstown Schools Alum, I am happy to say that this meeting did great things for me. Attending a public meeting that was close to home (literally) gave me a great sense of how together as a community, the school district and its citizens can become stronger, smarter, and more diverse. In my years at Rhode Island College, I have began to learn more about different cultures and different perspectives on education, and most of the topics brought up at the meeting I attended connect with these concepts. 

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One of the topics discussed that excited me was the new Dual Language Immersion Program provided at West Kingston Elementary and Peace Dale Elementary School (the elementary school I attended). This is a K-1 program that teaches students how to speak Spanish and educates them on the different cultures that speak this language. This is a program that I truly believe should be in every elementary school in the country. I have a close friend from Chile that told me she began to learn English at a young age, and ever since then I have felt that the U.S. needs to learn other languages at a young age as well. One of the people that spoke at the meeting mentioned a really cool thought about how children learning a second language now, could help better their fluency in the future and help better communicate with other countries when facing world issues such as global warming. I found this fact to be VERY interesting and a great way to think of what our youth can do to help our future. This program should be provided in ALL elementary schools and should continue all through elementary, middle, and high school.

Another topic that was discussed was the Home-Schooling Policy. Children that are home-schooled having access to curricular and extracurricular activities were the focus of discussion. This policy certainly opened my eyes to how freely people can speak about their thoughts, feelings, and opinions, regardless of what others believe. There were parents that home-school their children that talked about their children potentially participating in class sessions, but there were a couple of parents that did not agree with this statement. This environment led me to believe it was a safe place to talk about matters most important to you that you felt deserved a change.

As I looked around before the meeting started, I noticed that there were mostly parents and one home-schooled student that spoke on the behalf of how well she is doing in her academics and extracurricular activity. There wasn't anyone my age attending this meeting. This made me think about Youth in Action, and how they use the voice of youth to speak on behalf of what they think is best for their communities, and then I wondered, "What would this environment be like if students attended the meetings as well?" I know that when I was attending South Kingstown High school, or even Broad Rock Middle school, I did not think I had a voice the way I do now. (Although I will admit to making a petition with my friends to keep us at the same school. They were going to separate us into two different schools, and we were obviously opposed. The policy was grandfathered, but we were ready for a fight!). I feel like if we showed our youth that they do, indeed, have a voice that can be heard, students would be more involved with the policy-making of their education. There are, however, a wide variety of clubs that South Kingstown High provides, including their annual SKPades hosted by the junior class. It is a funny way to show what they think of their school, classmates, faculty, and other school related shenanigans. Even though there are other clubs such as the Gay Straight Alliance and STAND, if students were aware they could speak for themselves and others and their education, their voices would speak louder than their parents speaking for them, bringing the community even more together and creating even more positive and effective change.

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