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Students Testify before the MN Integration Task Force

January 11, 2012

Over holiday break 2011, four s.t.a.r.t. students took initiative to compose and submit statements to present before the MN Integration Task Force.  They were all selected to present their comments before the Task Force today.  Student Sara Osman, a South High junior, was not able to join us at the State Office Building; however, she submitted her comments.  Students Loren Towle, freshman; Eva Mitchell, a senior and co-founder of s.t.a.r.t.; and Sadia Ahmed all spoke before the community.

Sara wrote about how “if integration revenue is cut, we will be cutting off something that is very vital to the learning and growth of me and my student peers, exposure to other cultures and ideas.”  She also wrote that “If we expect to get the best possible education for our children, we must understand that opening up their thoughts and cultural lenses is necessary.”  She ended by writing that “If we produce young adults who are more racially and culturally aware, not only will they be stronger leaders, but the world will be a more accepting place.”

Eva Mitchell, a s.t.a.r.t. founder and senior, stated that “even at South, a multicultural school where you would think students would be sensitive and aware, a Somali friend of mine told me a story of when she was called a terrorist because she wore a hijab.”  Eva spoke about her friend Jordan who notices how white people still lock their doors when he walks by.  Eva shared that she co-founded s.t.a.r.t. because it “helps me and my peers to identify these issues, find ways to support one another, and to make positive changes.”  She spoke of how “All schools need diversity curriculum, and ideally, opportunities to make relationships across cultural and racial divides.”

Sadia Ahmed, a 10th-grader, spoke of how “cultural diversity gives students a glimpse into how the world really is and informs their education in culturally-relevant ways.”  She shared that “s.t.a.r.t. gives students a chance to actually do something in their schools that will open up people’s eyes and give this issue the attention it deserves in order for more students to do better.”  “s.t.a.r.t.,” she said, “is the beginning of a whole new era in our lives.”  She went on to say that “s.t.a.r.t. helps us to understand what cultural assets we bring to our schools, how to become leaders in integrating our student groups and how to work for better equity in academic achievement in our district and community.”  She asked that integration funding allow opportunities for students to talk about integration, too, and to play a more important role in educating legislators of their experiences.  Sadia referenced the book, Uncommon Common Ground: Race and America’s Future, by Angela Glover Blackwell et. al., that projects that a quarter of Minnesotans will be people of color by 2024.

Finally, Loren Towle, a South High freshman, cited research by author Richard Kahlenberg (All Together Now:  Creating Middle-class Schools through Public School Choice).  Loren pointed out that “as a result of racial integration, not only do students of color increase their test scores and social networks, but white students continue to achieve at high levels.”  Loren spoke about how he is learning about the historical patterns that benefit him, a white student, at the expense of his peers.  He also spoke of how “in an integrated school, we cross social networks and help create an environment of caring, yet focused students” and that “building relationships with students of color is beneficial to my learning experience.”

Loren, Sadia and Eva were the only high school students present at today’s discussion, a dialogue that focused entirely on student achievement.  As MN legislators ask themselves what role social interaction and cultural competence play in the process of academic achievement, it was very encouraging to have all four s.t.a.r.t. students weigh in on their own strong efforts to expand their education through intercultural bridging and leadership.

Congratulations again to Sara Osman, Sadia Ahmed, Eva Mitchell and Loren Towle on their first public testimonies!






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