Last week Tuesday, a group of UELIPs and I left central office and went to Sousa Middle School to participate in a panel with eighth graders transitioning into high school. The purpose of the panel, planned by UELIPs from the Office of Chief of Schools, was to help introduce the eighth graders strategies to empower themselves by giving them an opportunity to speak with college students.
As an intern at the central office, it was the first time that I interacted with students from a school within DCPS; for me, the experience made these students more than names on a paper—it put faces to the work that UELIPs and other workers do at central office. Where central office often focuses on larger issues for students in the District, the panel focused solely on the students and their immediate questions. But like many interactions with teenagers, it took us UELIP panelists some time gain the trust of the students; however, once we were able to jump over the huddle honest conversations began to occur naturally between us and the students. Notably, most students expressed their concerns with not only starting their high school careers, but also with what life holds beyond high school and college, and the skills required to succeed in whatever endeavor they choose.
Along with showing me the importance of empowering students to believe in their abilities, being a part of this panel also showed me the importance of having a proactive and connected central office. The work that we do in DCPS effects lives, and ultimately, it is how well we do it that will determine what kind of lives we help foster.