Chicago Public Schools is providing an opportunity for scholars around the city to apply for the Civil Rights Scholar program. The program is an experiential learning opportunity for emerging high school leaders attending a Chicago Public school. It’s designed for students in grades 10 through 12 to come together in small cohorts to gain leadership skills around recognizing, responding to, and preventing biased race behaviors.
In a brief interview with the program co-sponsors, Michael Roy Training and Prevention Manager in the Office of Student Protections and Title IX, and Madeline Meyer Training and Prevention Specialist in the Office of Student Protections and Title IX, The Chicago Defender had the opportunity to get a closer look into the purpose and drive behind the program.
The Chicago Defender: When did the program begin and how long has it been in existence?
Michael Roy: We dreamed up this program as well as our Civil Rights Leadership Summit back in the Spring of 2021 and we launched our first cohort in October of the same year. We’re on year two and we are currently recruiting! Applications are open until September 20, 2022, and we’re looking forward to getting kids across the city involved.
The Chicago Defender: The program is an experiential learning process for emerging leaders. What do students do during these experiences?
Michael Roy: They visit different cultural sights around the city, meet with political leaders, gain leadership skills through project-based learning, identify social issues/social justice issues in their schools that they want to tackle, and then begin identifying ways they can create social change with community activists.
Madeline Meyer: The program is broken up into seven different modules. Each month has a different theme focused around a different identity, civil rights, or social justice movement. We’re trying to give students a broad understanding of the plethora of civil rights topics they could be interested in because of a personal experience related to that. For a lot of our students, it’s learning about a topic that they don’t identify with that resonates with them that they’re interested in working with.
The Chicago Defender: What are the specific application requirements for the program?
Madeline Meyer: We wanted to keep the qualifications broad so anyone who is interested could apply. We are looking for sophomores, juniors, and seniors who are currently enrolled in a Chicago Public Schools high school. We’re looking for students who are interested in working in equity and building communities of inclusion, those who are interested in learning about policy, and students who are collaborative thinkers and workers. We cannot fix anything alone so we have to be able to lean on one another so we really instill the importance of collaboration in our students. Lastly, we have the values of OSP, the ABCs of OSP; accountability, belonging, and consent. We’re looking for students who are interested in learning more about those values and promoting them.
Michael Roy: The program is designed to enable students who know their own stories and schools better than we ever could as central office staff members so they could possibly be the seeds of social change in their buildings.
The Chicago Defender: What are the benefits of participating in this program?
Madeline Meyer: Now that we’ve done a full year of the program the biggest benefit was identified by one of our students who participated in our closing circle. They stated that their biggest takeaway was that they learned they had a voice and they learned that their voice was important. They’re developing projects and learning about topics they wouldn’t necessarily learn about in school. Ultimately, it’s social-emotional learning. They’re re-learning what it means to build friendships, and community, and how to be with one another.
Michael Roy: We ground the program in building relationships because we know that we don’t go at things alone and that social change issues impact the community. We need to act as a community and citizens to create a better school district and a better Chicago.
Creating change constitutes creating agents of change. The CPS Civil Rights Scholar Program has produced a program where students can make this happen within their own learning communities. All Chicago Public School high school students are encouraged to apply for this wonderful opportunity before the application window closes. To directly apply and submit an application, click on the link below.