Cultivating Connections: Student Engagement Specialists in Action
The Village Builder Project's second pilot position, Student Engagement Specialists (SES), embarked on an inspiring journey as the new school year dawned. Their mission: To foster relationships and build bridges for the incoming 9th grade students, providing a warm welcome to high school life. Designed to offer support in both high schools and their feeder middle schools, this role aimed to provide continuity as students transitioned into larger educational spaces.
This transition support model proved to be invaluable, as the students these specialists mentored in middle school seamlessly connected with high school clubs such as the BSU and Latinx Student Unions, as well as other student-led multicultural clubs.
One powerful approach to making our comprehensive high schools feel more accessible is through the promotion of student clubs and co-curricular activities. These spaces not only cultivate a sense of community but also allow students to authentically express their culture, and above all, ensure that every student is known, affirmed, and empowered. At West High School, SESs Ozanne Anderson, Mike Alston, and Mikiea Price joined forces with West High School Multicultural Services Coordinator, Alicia Grant, to promote the school's clubs during their student club fair. The result was remarkable: nearly every student from their middle school small groups enthusiastically signed up for clubs. These students have consistently turned to the SESs for guidance in navigating the newly renovated and expanded high school, as well as for connections to staff and West High community-building opportunities.
The role of Student Engagement Specialists was crafted as a developmental opportunity for entry-level staff, aligning with the District's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. These dedicated staff members receive ongoing professional development and have the chance to participate in various Grow Your Own programs throughout MMSD. Depending on their educational background, they can pursue careers as teachers, social workers, or counselors. These specialists are not only guiding our students but also pursuing their own paths to excellence in education.