Students at Future Leaders of America (FLA) hosted a Bridge the Divide workshop mid-April to facilitate a workshop that centered on creating a more supportive learning environment for BIPOC [Black, Indigenous people of color] students. This workshop helped educators expand their capacity to serve students from diverse backgrounds.

At the workshop, guest speakers Veronica Valadez and Gabriel Orosco from Ehecatl Wind Philosophies shared with all of the attendees their knowledge on how to close opportunity gaps for students by providing teachers with high-quality professional development grounded in critical and culturally relevant education. The workshop was made possible by funding from the Fund for Santa Barbara, which has a youth-led grant-making leadership development program with the goal of learning about philanthropy and grant-making in which they select youth programs to help finance their events and create change in their communities.

In the Santa Barbara Unified School District, 59.96 percent of students are Latinx, and 67.37 percent are BIPOC, yet many students feel like there’s more work to be done to build a truly inclusive academic experience. Youth shared their personal testimonies on their educational experience with teachers from the school district.

The testimonies and activities led by the youth had a significant impact on the participants and created a vital learning opportunity. “We have made great strides with bridging the divide between students and educators with the teachers who were present. They realized there were some indirect ways that our institutions can promote exclusion in the classroom and how they can be allies in building a culture where all youth can feel included and thrive. My only wish is that all teachers were here since it has the potential to close the achievement gap for students of color,” said Daniel Gonzalez, director of advocacy at Future Leaders of America.

The workshop was one step toward creating a more inclusive educational experience for our youth, but it has also demonstrated to us that there’s a lot of work left to be done.


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