Forming productive relationships with others is an important life skill. Building a diverse community where everyone is valued is even more important, especially if you are interacting with people who have different backgrounds and interests than you.
Introducing Connections, a program from Roosevelt Alumni for Racial Equity (RARE). Connections will bring together Seattle high school students from different campuses using shared activities to create relationships with students who have had different life experiences.
Connections picks up where ethnic studies and diversity trainings end by putting those learnings into action by adding fun. Connections will assemble groups of students to have fun together by engaging in various kinds of activities – anything from sports to the arts, to learning skills and hobbies. The goal is to help high school students graduate after learning an important life skill — the ability to form relationships with people who are different from themselves — that doesn’t come from books. Doing so will serve the students for the rest of their lives. It will help them in higher education, work and volunteer activities.
The Connections program has a pledge of financial and other support from the Seattle Public Schools. It has been endorsed by Superintendent Dr. Brent Jones, RHS Principal Tami Brewer, Seattle School Board VP Brandon Hersey, and many staff, parents, and community members.
“RARE’s Connections program will provide excellent opportunities for students of different backgrounds and cultures to share meaningful and fun extracurricular experiences, and to deepen their understanding of racial issues. Shared experiences of this kind can create life-long learning and friendships.” – Principal Tami Brewer, Roosevelt High School, Seattle
Seeking Community Partners
RARE will arrange and fund activities with community partners who are experts in their fields and already have experience running youth programs. We are open to all ideas and suggestions. Some activities might involve a few evenings over a period of a month or two. Others might be a week away outside the city.
If you are involved with — or know of — an organization that has a youth program that could provide a Connections activity, please complete the form below. We will get back to you to discuss how to best proceed.
Why did you start the Connections program?
The segregation of Seattle public schools has hardly changed over the past 50 years. This ongoing and seemingly intractable situation leads to fear, misunderstanding, and discrimination in all facets of life. It detracts from the quality of our children’s education and leaves them underprepared for college and careers. We believe that one part of the solution is to encourage young people from different races and ethnicities to participate together in fun and interesting activities, where interaction is encouraged, and lifelong friendships might be started.
Will you involve students in planning the Connections program?
Absolutely yes. For starters, we received great suggestions and ideas from some of the NAACP Youth Council Seattle-King County members about the foundation and design of Connections. We also talked to RHS students about their interest in experiencing programming which enhances diversity, racial equity, and inclusion for high school students. We are continuing to talk to students, and are looking at the formation of an advisory committee of students from a number of schools.
Has Connections Started?
In summer 2022, Connections launched a two-week pilot program co-developed by Connections volunteers and Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle staff. 10 students of color, from such schools as Roosevelt, Garfield, Chief Sealth, and Franklin, experienced both a classroom-based exploration of racial equity concepts and curriculum, and collaborative group adventures. The majority of responses from the students was overwhelmingly positive. Connections is using the feedback and input from the pilot program to continue to evaluate and design future Connections programming for engagement in the schools.
How will you engage partners for the activities?
Countless interesting activities that can potentially be adapted to fit the program. We have made productive partnerships with youth-oriented organizations, and will continue to reach out to more programs in Seattle and King County, including other non-profits, school districts, PTAs, student groups and business groups. We are also using word of mouth, networks of well-connected Seattle school alumni, and articles in the local press. Do you know of a youth program or organization we should be talking to? Please contact us here.
Why do you use the word “movement” in the title of this page?
Nearly everyone we talk to is positive about the idea of Connections. They see it as a simple but actionable concept that begins to address the question of “what can we do” about problems of racial inequity and the challenges of moving toward antiracism. The Connections’ summer pilot program supported the notion that thoughtful curriculum and activities can recognize and develop students’ interest in increasing racial equity in their schools and personal lives, assist the cultivation of partnership and friendship across difference, and promote leadership skills and attainable goals. We hope that what we are learning through our efforts can support and enhance a movement that expands throughout Seattle and beyond.
What evidence do you have that the Connections program will make a difference?
RARE itself is an example of what we’re talking about. It was started by alumni who had formed connections through sports teams 50 years earlier. Those connections were long dormant, but still strong enough to provide a foundation for an organization that has already had significant accomplishments and has in turn led to many more connections. We believe that what we have learned from the summer pilot program supports these new and exciting pathways.
What do parents think about Connections?
Parents have talked to us about their hopes for the opportunities Connections offers students. Several of our Connections volunteers are parents whose kids are in or have gone through the Seattle public schools. We’ve also heard from a number of parents who would like to see Connections developed as an natural way for their children to explore racial equity through friendship with like-minded students.
Will teachers be involved?
Yes! We are hearing from teachers who are interested in learning more about Connections. A number of Seattle public school administrators are also enthusiastic about the possibilities Connections offers. But we also understand that teachers are maxed out all day, every day. They do not need yet another “to-do item” dropped on them. We have begun the Connections program by first using student feedback, comments, ideas, and suggestions to drive our understanding of how students would like to see increased racial equity at their schools. Ideally, some activities can become co-curricular — learning opportunities that earn credit. As Connections grows and shows some success, we hope that teachers will begin to fold the Connections activities into their planning.
RARE’s Connections program will provide excellent opportunities for students of different backgrounds and cultures to share meaningful and fun extracurricular experiences, and to deepen their understanding of racial issues. Shared experiences of this kind can create life-long learning and friendships. — Principal Tami Brewer, Roosevelt High School, Seattle