Clement Coulston and Kaitlyn Smith are members of the Special Olympics Project UNIFY National Youth Activation Committee. They were recently asked to co-author one of the 11 Practice Briefs, focusing on School Climate and Inclusion.
Often times when society thinks of “valuable contributors” to issues, discussions and insights, the first image that appears in their mind is one of a well-educated and experienced adult; very rarely is that intuition one of a young person. Youth are constantly told and often led to believe that they are “the leaders of tomorrow,” but what about today? Youth are the ones in the schools, collaborating with educators, and hold the power to make a change.
The magic of Special Olympics Project UNIFY® is the belief in young people to identify challenges in schools, co-create solutions, implement these strategies and reflect on its impact. Young people of all abilities have valuable insights and can contribute innovative ideas, but we must re-orientate our expectations of how their talent can be best utilized.
The National School Climate Center (NSCC) has worked with youth leaders, like us, from Project UNIFY and has seen our potential. With our extensive experience and interest in areas concerning School Climate and Inclusion, the NSCC asked us to author a Practice Brief encompassing our experiences, thereby providing strategies and practices that students, educators and the whole school community can further advance.
Below are some of our favorite excerpts from this 4-page Practice Brief. We encourage you to take a deeper look – the brief can be found in conjunction with other briefs on equity and shared leadership here: http://bit.ly/YcXFnr
Inclusion is a set of best practices and shared values that meaningfully support the diversity that each person brings to the school.
Students are the ones who have the power to alter the school climate in either a negative or positive way, based upon their perception of what a school climate should feel like. Students hold the power to make it either socially acceptable or unacceptable to unite with their fellow classmates who have differences.
At the center of Inclusion is the notion that diversity is an ever-growing phenomenon that evokes a need for the community to cultivate global citizenship in today’s students.