ULMS Integrates Connections into Summer University: Building a Culture of Belonging

/ May 28, 2024

The Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle (ULMS) and Roosevelt Alumni for Racial Equity (RARE) are excited to announce the integration of the Connections program into the highly regarded Summer University.

What Is Connections?

Connections is a program for high school students designed to create supportive and thriving school communities by fostering a sense of belonging and creating an inclusive environment where every individual feels valued.

Connections @ GHS via Summer University

The program aims to break down social barriers and bring together diverse groups of students. The program has two components: learning and doing. First, students learn about belonging, leadership, teamwork, and anti-racism through interactive workshops. They then apply these concepts by planning and executing inclusive activities for their peers.

Connections engages students in the solution because of their unique insights into what their peers need and want. Students who are given authority and responsibility can develop more effective solutions. Recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, they can tailor initiatives to their school’s unique needs. Leveraging students as a valuable resource allows the model to succeed independently of challenges such as severe budget cuts, an overstretched teaching staff, and administrative turnover.

Why Belonging Matters

A sense of belonging is fundamental to improving academic performance, ensuring school safety, and achieving equity. An inclusive environment enhances educational outcomes and significantly reduces incidents of bullying and isolation. This is especially crucial for students of color, who often have the least resources and face additional social barriers

To truly fix belonging, it requires a change to the entire school culture, not just targeting one group.

Each person’s sense of belonging is interconnected with others’. When the whole school embraces inclusivity, it fosters mutual respect and understanding, provides equal opportunities and support, and creates a positive community for all students.

Summer University Track

Connections Workshop @ Summer University

From July 1 to August 9, 2024, at Garfield High School, the Connections Workshop will be one of the tracks offered to Summer University participants. The Summer University runs from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, Monday through Friday. The Connections track will operate from 9:00 AM to noon, Monday through Thursday, and participate in field trips with students in other tracks on Fridays. Doors open at 8:30 AM for breakfast. Students will receive lunch, service credits, and practical skills valuable for jobs and college applications. A $600 stipend is available to students who meet attendance criteria.

Student Action Projects

Student teams brainstorm and develop ideas for inclusive activities. Past Connections activities have included an indigenous walking tour, a justice journey by bike, a climbing wall, and an interactive theater art program. Once Workshop participants, known as “Connectors”, propose their activities or action projects, Connections provides support, guidance, and up to $1,500 in funding to bring their plans to life. Connectors then recruit “Connectees”—students who join these activities and are inspired to become the next generation of Connectors, continuing the cycle of community building and engagement.

How To Apply

The program is open to all rising 10th and 11th graders from Garfield and Roosevelt High Schools. Interested students are encouraged to apply for the Summer University program via the Urban League’s website.

For more details or questions, students can reach out to Amber Inwood at [email protected].

ULMS and RARE Partnership

ULMS & RARE partner for Connections

ULMS and RARE are collaborating on all aspects of the Connections program, including planning, hiring, management, budgeting, marketing, and fundraising. Both organizations are deeply committed to promoting racial equity and a culture of belonging, which is integral to the program’s success.

By integrating Connections into the Summer University, ULMS and RARE are taking significant steps toward promoting a culture of belonging and equity within Seattle schools, ensuring that every student feels valued and empowered to make a difference.