Daija & Elizabeth, Senior & Junior in High School, UT
Elizabeth is a Junior and Daija is a Senior in High School at the Salt Lake Center for Science Education (SLCSE). They are incredibly articulate, thoughtful, bright, and motivated students. A joy to talk with.
RE-ENVISIONED visited SLCSE as part of our School Spotlight #schoolstour, which aims to understand school communities in more depth. We loved every moment at SLCSE. You can find more posts from SLCSE by searching #slcse on the "A New Conversation" page.
Take these three Post-it notes and draw three things you want for your life right now in childhood.
Daija: One of them that I put was reading, because growing up I thought it was the coolest thing since sliced bread to have my own little bookshelf. When I was little, I tried to read every single book possible on it. It helped me see the world differently and how to see how adaptable personalities are and how different people have different perspectives. My entire family encouraged that always and helped me have a solid head growing up.
Another is emotional support—little examples are just validation and saying, “Don’t worry, this takes practice, we’ll get better. I'll help you if you want on this” Almost valuing failure, because little kids can get down on themselves. Don’t compare your level 1 to someone’s level 20.
Also encouragement, instead of having someone showing you something and saying, "oh, that's decent," having someone tell you, "that it’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!", and encourage someone to continue perfecting their craft.
Elizabeth: This is just showing a mom and dad with a kid playing different sports. I feel like when I was younger I didn’t get a lot of exposure to sports because my parents were always working. So, I didn’t get to experience a sport, and now that I’m older I think, maybe could have been really good at a particular sport, or dance, things that my peers are really good at. I feel like your childhood should teach you things about yourself and what you like.
This one is showing a family at the dinner table. Kids shouldn’t be worrying about bills or problems that their parents have. They shouldn't worry about food, home, or what’s going to happen. They should just be thinking about having their parents there with them and enjoying the time they have together.
This one is just that a lot of families are broken, so kids take what they have at home and just keep it inside and don’t let it out or get someone to talk to. So not everyone knows who is going through what-- every kid should have a decent family that shows love and support.
You both are so thoughtful, thank you. I forgot that I wanted to actually start with a different question. How would your friends or family describe you?
D: My mom, last night, I came home from volunteering and she said, "I told my friends you were an overachiever." I don’t think I am. I just lifeguard and I volunteer at Planned Parenthood. Maybe sarcastic could be another component. I’m very passionate, because I’m super into social advocacy. I’m not going to try something without giving it my all. I feel like it's super lame to half-ass things, so I give it my all or I don't do it.
E: I think also my friends would say I’m an overachiever, because I always go the extra step on a project or assignment. My friends always say, "do we have to do that?" That encourages them to do the same thing. I always get teachers telling me that thank you for taking the extra step, you’re being a role model for other students. They tell me that I’m a role model and very passionate. My parents would say that I’m really passionate about things I want to do, that I have this urge to do things and that I’m a hard worker.
Now, I'm going to give you three more Post-its. This is going to be about when you're all grown-up, in your 30s - ancient :) - what would make a good life for you as an adult? What's success?
E: This is me, and this is the world. And these little dotted lines are money, clothes, food, that I can give back to the world. I love helping other people and giving back, just recently I went to Thailand and taught kids English, so I would like to travel the world and give back whatever I possibly can.
It’s always been a dream of mine to be an FBI agent, so in my future I see myself doing that.
I drew a house because I want to know that I have a stable home and that I’m safe somewhere, and that I did it and it's mine. I drew a car and I want it to be a Camaro--I've always wanted one! This is my dad and my mom two sisters, myself and my brother. My mom has been trying to graduate college, she's been taking free classes for college credit over the past few years. It’s always been a struggle for her to learn English and also she has kids to take care of. My older sister went to the University of Utah and the younger one went to SLCSE. They struggled and can’t really get back on track, so for me in my future I see them all graduated from college. Even my dad, who didn't have the opportunity to further his education, after attending some high school, he had to stop going because he had to start working, so if he could get further education that would be great.
What is it about education you want him to have?
E: Education, in the U.S. and the world, is the path to a successful life. My parents told me if you put yourself through school then you’ll be successful and learn a lot. It will get you a job and a family it will get you everything you want in life. They didn’t have a education and they had to work really, really hard in life. It’s important and I need to get it done. I like it, they aren’t forcing me to do that, its something I want to do. I take all the classes I can get.
How about you, Daija?
D: It looks like just a square with books on it, but it’s a gigantic bookshelf. I define success by how many books you have. My mom's boss who is the CEO of a firm has all of these books in his life. I associate books with success. Having my own personal library would be awesome.
I also put a little computer and a dog--I want a dog who I can work with at home. So, I would be a computer engineer/scientist. A lot of it you can do from home. I want to figure out what is going on in Russia, so I'd be getting past that firewall with my dog next to me.
This is future me holding up a sign that says "Reproductive Rights are Human Rights." I know that the fight against Republicans, not all, but a lot of Republican males holding power want to defund Planned Parenthood. I wrote "be loud" because if I’m not using my voice, then I can’t actively make a difference. Using my loud, annoying voice to get things done is in my future.
What should schools be doing to help you get to these good lives?
E: One thing that schools should incorporate more is financial literacy class. Every class isn’t teaching how to budget, save, to buy a car or a house—so a financial literacy class would be awesome. In order to give back, I have to have something to give back. If I know how to budget and save, then I can buy a house and the car I’ve always wanted. I can pay for my education and my siblings' education.
D: I think schools should have a wider variety of electives. A lot of people wait to dabble in things until college because that's when they have options. It would be good to have that starting in high school. All we have for electives in this is art and health...there's computer science classes also but not many people know about them. Also, it would be really helpful for people to have social advocacy in class because a lot of people have asked me how they can get involved and there’s not really a thing taught in school currently.
E: We should maybe have a group or a class that involves minorities, to teach them about their culture, their traditions, because I know when I was in 9th or 10th grade I was figuring out my identity, and I still haven’t figured it out, but for me it was really hard because I’m divided in two worlds. I’m American and Mexican. Mr. Crandall gave me a piece of myself because he taught me about the Chicano movement. I felt empowered but in my other classrooms we didn’t learn about that. We learned about slavery and the Industrial Revolution, but you never really teach some students about their culture. When I learned about what my people did, I felt like I was given a new piece of myself and I was more encouraged to be myself. A class like that would really help out students because I know some of my fellow Mexican American students who have low self esteem and don’t feel like they can act like themselves for fear that they will be judged.
Since the majority of students are white in the advanced classes, I start to think, “Maybe I shouldn’t ask these questions because I’ll look dumb.” A lot of them are really knowledgeable about political and current events, so sometimes I sit back and ask, “How do they know all of this?” It’s because they’ve been taught about it from a young age, by their parents who have time and the knowledge.
D: Building off of that, with the students of color idea, if everyone could have this melting pot at the school it would be powerful. Because there are so many different movements and identities that intersect them all. Mr. Crandall, my dude, we talked about the Black Panther party in class, and other historical events like Belgium taking over and killing the Congolese. That would be so helpful because no one in my class knew that was happening, the white students but also the people of color who need to hear a different history, one not from a white person’s perspective.
Why do you think we, as America, have schools? Why does the government pay for schooling?
E: I think America has schools because it wants its society to be better. To teach about how the government works, I think so that their citizens will have something to contribute to society, although that sometimes doesn't happen with everyone.
D: I feel like to a certain extent, some schools are in place to hold an institutionalized racism. Depending on the area code, you may be receiving a totally different education than people in in richer stereotypically whiter neighborhoods. Everyone there is in AP, IB, or honors. The education system keeps people of color oppressed and helps white people excel.
What is the most empowering learning experience you've had?
D: Mr. Crandall talking about the Black panther party and connecting it to the Black Lives Matter movement today. He does a great job of connecting what happened in the past to what’s going on today. To me, empowering education is showing that you understand you can change a situation if you take on that leadership role.
E: An empowering learning experience for me.... It would be when immigration came to my house one day and it was chaos. My brother and sisters were crying and my brother hid under the table and I was just standing there. My dad went to go check the door and he said to go away and called my mom to tell her to not come home. They were pointing guns at us from the outside. My mom didn't come home - she went with her friend but we stayed at the house with the officers there for two hours. After that, we were scared to be at the house. We stayed with a friend who gave us food, shelter, love, and compassion. At that moment I saw my parents and family very low. I realized that without my parents I would lose many things.
From that moment on, I knew that I wanted to be successful,and that at least I have the chance because I’m a U.S. citizen. My parents have so many obstacles in their way because they don't have that. I have this citizenship that gives me an opportunity to change and contribute to the world by allowing me to have many opportunities, that my parents don’t have. So I want to be the best person I can be to give back to others, but especially them, because If they didn’t risk their life to cross the border, I wouldn’t have the life I have today.
The Salt Lake City Center for Science Education (SLCSE) is a unique lab school serving a diverse 6-12th grade student population in Salt Lake City. From their website: "At SLCSE, we develop the character and skills necessary to "Change Reality." We are courageous and persistent problem-solvers. We take healthy risks. We make mistakes and learn from our mistakes. We care about the quality of our work. We use professional language and kindness to develop learning communities. We take care of our abundant resources and use them to serve our school community and beyond. We use our curiosity, imagination and adaptability to direct ourselves in our quest; as learners, critical thinkers and ethical world citizens." You can find out more at http://slcse.weebly.com/ .