LEADurham program to help students grow in advocacy work, educate teachers

Posted August 4, 2020 11:32 p.m. EDT

— As students return to the classroom this fall — whether virtually, in-person or a combination of the two — there will be some pivotal moments from their time away to shape their futures.

The coronavirus headlines took a backseat in June with the death of George Floyd and nationwide protests that followed. Now, leaders in Durham Public Schools are making sure students have a new lesson on the books when it comes to making sure all are treated equal.

Over the summer months, students took to the streets and led community events. Because they’re now taking action into their own hands, Durham Public Schools wants to help amplify their voices through the LEADurham program.

“It’s teaching people how important it is to advocate for yourself and also people that look like you, and advocate for people that don't look like you,” said Jay Rahim, a senior at Durham School of the Arts and an advisory board member for LEADurham.

Rahim has a passion for advocacy and wants to teach others how to successfully get engaged more.

“I feel as if it's really important, now that this has kind of opened up, that we have as many people in the discussion as possible,” she said.

“Young people are the ones who are going to drive us into the future and make some of these changes. We just want to give them a space to explore,” said DPS Director of Online Learning Matthew Hickson.

The online platform is designed to help grow students' skills in advocacy work and educate teachers on how to tackle these tough conversations both in and outside classrooms.

“[We’re] just really excited about students having this opportunity to expand their thinking, explore their own mindsets and get in touch with some great community partners,” Hickson said.

Several organizations that do racial equity and social justice work across the Triangle are involved in the program. Teachers who apply will receive professional development from them, while students will get to lead what they're calling “Action Projects.”

“[We’ll] learn about what it's like to work with people that are like-minded and different-minded and see what it's like to be in a community where you can help others,” Rahim said.

Applications for the program will become available Wednesday on DPS Ignite and the Durham Public Schools homepage.

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