FHS Diversity Club is working with Lakeville, South Minneapolis schools on new initiativeFarmington High School’s diversity club has been working on the START of something new this year. The local diversity club has been working with Lakeville North, Lakeville South and Minneapolis South high schools this year on a new partnership called Students Together as Allies for Racial Trust – or START – that is aimed at helping all of schools educate students
By: Michelle Leonard, The Farmington Independent
Farmington High School’s diversity club has been working on the START of something new this year.
The local diversity club has been working with Lakeville North, Lakeville South and Minneapolis South high schools this year on a new partnership called Students Together as Allies for Racial Trust – or START – that is aimed at helping all of schools educate students.
The FHS diversity club has done a fair amount of travelling through the program. They’ve gone to both Lakeville high schools, and to Minneapolis South. They’ve seen the similarities between their buildings and the student cultures within, and they’ve seen the differences. Students from all of the participating START program clubs have heard from speakers. They put on plays and skits, and they have group sessions to share insights.
“The idea was to celebrate the differences of students in our schools. We were kind of lacking a focus on how to move forward. We wanted the group to be student led, and we were trying to steer them, but we couldn’t really wrap around a specific topic to address,” diversity club advisor Kari Simonsen said. “But one of the things we knew was that we wanted to be more impactful.”
Even the simple things like the layout of a school building play into the education of students through the START experience. Minneapolis South, for instance, has no windows and has a lot of security measures in place. But once Farmington’s students were in the building, they learned that looks are not everything.
“There is a lot more to diversity and how it felt for students. The kids (at Minneapolis South) were so welcoming to us, we couldn’t have felt more welcome in a place that looked so foreboding. It’s been a really powerful thing for our students,” Simonsen said.
Simonsen and FHS teacher Ron Williams are the advisors for Farmington’s diversity club. And while they have plenty of support at the local level, Simonsen said she has seen students develop stronger leadership skills through their participation in the START partnership.
“I’m hoping we’ll be able to continue this partnership. The cool thing is really about student leadership. We’re seeing a lot of kids in the diversity club emerge as leaders,” she said.
“There is a lot of work that needs to be done in the area of equity and now we have a group to work with that has some awesome leadership. We’ve gone through the initial training and now there are a lot of possibilities. It’s been a boost to our club, even if we don’t know where we are going just yet.”
Farmington High School will be the host to the end-of-the-year banquet for the START program this week. Simonsen said FHS students are excited to welcome their new friends and the families into FHS. The students will share poetry, skits, artwork and other skills they’ve developed through the program.
Next week, the FHS diversity club will take its education efforts to Farmington Elementary School, where they will talk with FES teachers about what it is like to be a minority student in elementary schools, to help FES develop its own diversity program.