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Independent School Spirit was to initially offer support and resources to the current and former minority student body who are affiliated with but not limited to private schools. However, we know that all students can benefit from the supplemental support that we are committed to providing. We believe that students in independent schools who are in the minority need the additional reassurance that they can feel: "Included", "Inspired" and "Involved". Being able to connect students of color from different academic settings, allows for resources to be shared, communities to be challenged and for students to grow and to be more well rounded.
For minority students especially, it can sometimes be a challenge to feel connected to your educational environments. Independent School Spirit's goal as an organization is to help support all students emotionally and intellectually via networking initiatives to ensure a more well-rounded overall academic experience.
DEFINING "SCHOOL sPIRIT" FOR STUDENTS OF COLOR
The definition of the concept "school spirit" is typically expressed by the display of loud cheers and the enormous attendance at a school event. However, how does that translate into understanding the connection which students of color have (especially) to their predominantly white institutions, especially when their presence is not so dominant? In order to address the challenges that students of color have faced and continue to face during their overall academic experience, we must first explore some of the factors that influence and give a more vivid example of what school spirit looks like for students. We have narrowed down and continue to dedicate our research in exploring these three areas: Involvement, inspiration and inclusion in order to better make a connection between schools and students of color in order to ensure a more positive overall academic experience. How we define the 3 key elements of school spirit:
It is the myth and the stereotype that students of color do not wish to be involved in the culture of independent schools. There are many factors as to why this assumption exists. Involvement is sometimes limited due to where students live, cultural difference and cultural cycles that have been in existence for many years. In exploring the culture of the level of involvement students have in their schools, we have conducted research of students of color who are graduates of independent schools.
Platforms which promote inspiration within students of color can be established through those who have had the authentic experience themselves. Whether it is being able to socially identify to an individual based upon race, academic experiences according to race or familiarity with the a particular environment (in this case independent schools), it is quite essential in order for students of color have an external resource to refer to. This journey as a student of color is underestimated and the stories are often not fully told However, there is so much appreciation for the lessons learned that transfer into real life experiences beyond the educational world.
Often the challenge of students of color in independent schools is the disconnect that is already prone to exist. This assumption is accompanied with the anxiety of feeling a lack of inclusion. The make up of the school does not necessarily display a familiar setting therefore, finding it necessary to gravitate to those who are identifiable. Isolation is a means of survival and provides the comfort while adjusting to this setting. Being able to connect current students of color with those who understand and can introduce them to a world with a mind set that will reduce the level of social anxiety so that the level of isolation to can be reduce and opportunity and inclusion can be explored and considered are ways that we have identified as a means for our students to thrive.