Students from Detroit School of Arts, Cass Technical High School, M.L. King High School, Renaissance High School and Western International High School attended the 24th Annual Equity Within the Classroom Conference at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor March 30-April 1, 2014.
Several students led workshop sessions, attended by leaders in higher education, to provide the students’ perspective on increasing equity in the classroom at all grade levels.
Michigan’s 15 public universities, the King-Chavez-Parks Initiative, GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program), and several other local universities and colleges collaborated to sponsor the event.
A group of DSA students, along with their teacher, presented a workshop titled, “Building Partnerships in Detroit by Animating Shakespeare.” Participants included: John Wood, A’Leetzia Burns, Alexandra Collier, Sierra Dillard, Daniel James, Hasani Jones, Robert Lynch, Tiara Stovall and Jazmine Washington. The students shared their yearlong collaboration on animated video projects inspired by the works of Shakespeare.
Students from Cass, King, Renaissance and Western attended the event through the Michigan GEAR UP program at Wayne State University. Students present at the conference were members of the WSU GEAR UP Leadership Academy, which is an exclusive program within Michigan GEAR UP for high-performing students, according to Althanie Gardner, Lead Program Counselor for Michigan GEAR UP at WSU.
The WSU GEAR UP program services approximately 2,000 DPS students. Out of the 2,000 students, 12 were selected as GEAR UP Student Leaders based on their performance in the program and grade point average of at least a 3.5.
“Some of the things we’re teaching them within the GEAR UP Leadership Academy is leadership development, peer mentoring, how to deal with their peers from the perspective of ‘it’s not a problem of dealing with other people, but what can we change within ourselves to be able to better deal with individuals,’” Gardner shared.
The students were able to share what they are learning through the Leadership Academy with conference attendees. During the closing ceremony, they were acknowledged by one of the event’s keynote speakers, Dr. Calvin Mackie, on their vital role and voice in helping educators ensure equal treatment of all students.
“The GEAR UP Program has really opened my eyes and made me realize that there are more fields out there for me—not just doctors, dentists and lawyers, but other things I can accomplish,” Blakely said. “It’s really shown me that I can make a difference.”
Blakely also shared how important mentors are for high school students, personally naming GEAR UP Counselor Jamar Lockhart.
“Mr. Lockhart has made a real impact in my life,” Blakely said. “He’s shown me different things. He’s mentored me… helped me to navigate through problems in high school. He’s like my second dad honestly. I just commend him for the great job that he’s doing.”