This post was written by Emily Romero, Noble Street College Prep Class of 2019 and Noble Street Principal, Ben Gunty.

Two years ago, in the midst of a heightened national conversation about systemic racism in America, we came together to explore our role as a school community. As a staff, we responded by creating Noble Street’s first school-wide Diversity Dialogue in June 2016. Through this programming, we took an important first step in protecting school time to explore our collective diversity and foster a more equitable experience for students and teachers. In May of this year, we were proud to host our sixth Diversity Dialogue. But this time, things looked a little different. Instead of teachers leading critical conversations, students took the reins. They worked in diverse teams to build innovative solutions to interrupting racism, homophobia, ableism, and sexual harassment in our school. Club officers from a range of student organizations including Future Black Leaders, Dreamers, the National Honor Society, and Peer Mentors, spoke on a panel to encourage action from other students. Daja Wells and Latajah Young, two of our seniors heading to college in the Fall, emceed an electrifying event that showcased the diverse talents of our student body.

Instead of teachers leading critical conversations, students took the reins. They worked in diverse teams to build innovative solutions to interrupting racism, homophobia, ableism, and sexual harassment in our school.

Yet again, our students rose to the challenge. Their creativity, thoughtfulness, energy, and positivity pulsed through the halls of Noble Street College Prep. They proved that the hope of a better world echoes mightily from their young voices. At Noble Street, we believe that love and high expectations are central to our work. We believe that empowering our students to lead with excellence and justice is critical to the formation of a more equitable Chicago. Our teachers work relentlessly to ensure that our students get the education they deserve – an education that considers the holistic needs of our students and believes in their capacity for excellence. In turn, our students strive every day to live out their best selves.
The Diversity Dialogue was created as a response to discouraging trends across our country, but it has become so much more. It has evolved to enrich and empower us, to affirm the value of our diversity, and to encourage more conversations about tough issues that we may have tried to avoid just a few years ago. What has been and continues to be true is the power of our young people to strengthen our school and to inform our practice. The Diversity Dialogue was merely a starting point. But we are on this journey together, staff and students alike, eager to ensure that everyone who walks through our halls feels belonging and significance.

As educators, we have a duty to protect a space for student voice. As students, we have a duty to use that voice for good. If we all play our part, then together we can build the better world we seek.

Check out the Diversity Dialogue gallery below:

At Noble, we are college bound. As the largest charter public school network in Chicago, Noble’s high school program exposes our students to higher education options and guides them through the collegiate application process. Through college trips, college fairs, summer college immersion programs and required academic courses, Noble demystifies the college experience and shapes students’ beliefs and confidence about higher education.
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