Professional Development

Starting an Activist Club at School

Starting a club or group at your school can be a great way to address race and gender issues in the school as well as in the community in which you live.

Forming an anti-racist, unity, or a multi-cultural club can be a great way to spur dialogue between students, students and faculty members and amongst faculty and administrators. This type of dialogue is important in creating an environment in which everyone feels comfortable.

1. Get a teacher to sponsor the group.

In a setting such as a high school or middle school, it is important to gain the help and support of a teacher or other faculty member in starting your group. A supportive teacher can help to bridge the gap between both generations and bureaucratic tape. Additionally a supportive teacher can help get other teachers and community members involved. As well, a few supportive adults can access resources younger people may not be able to access alone. The key is fostering a forum for youth to create change, adults should nurture not lead.

2. Call a meeting.

The next step in getting the ball rolling will be to set up your first meeting. Huge questions are: What is a meeting? What will we talk about at the meeting?

Many times groups will get together for a first meeting and find themselves staring into each other's faces with nothing to talk about.

Your first meeting should be very casual and consist of planning amongst founding members. This type of meeting will really serve as a plenary for the first meeting to which you will invite anyone who wants to attend and get involved.

Think of ways to expand your group. How can you creatively launch the new group to the rest of the school?

Plan to make your initial meetings something more than a mundane after school event. Plan a mixer with refreshments, music and films. Make it interesting.

3. Plan activities to help people get to know one another.

Start to think of ideas for breaking the ice at this meeting. Remember, if people don't have fun and feel comfortable they will not come to the next meeting. What will you talk about at the first open meeting?

Think simply. Provide a clear impression of what types of issues the group plans to address. Keep things light.

Plan a game that gets everyone acquainted; introduce yourselves to each other and share why you felt was important to get involved.

4. Set goals for your group.

Once you have started your group rolling and have a few core participants attending your meetings, the group should set goals.

These goals should tackle everything from funding to attracting new members. Be creative and realistic. Additionally, your group should look at ways to use its influence as a school-sanctioned group.

Think about sponsoring events and speakers. Identify key issues not only in your school, but also in your community. Think out side the norm.

If you set a goal to have a great speaker come to talk to the whole school about an issue like race, history, gender or culture, ask the speaker to address interested members of the community that evening, too. Use the school or a local events center to host the event.

Try to include self-education into your group's meetings. Strive to keep learning about new issues.

5. Schedule events that are fun.

Plan events that entice people to come, not because they are necessarily interested in the cause, but because the event sounds fun.

Consider events like music shows, concerts, dances and presentations. Imagine an after school event in which the local high school punk band plays a show with the local hip hop act, and the whole thing is hosted by that local DJ kid. That would be cool, right?

Introduce the groups' goals and ideas at the event. Use informational tables and flyers or an art display created by school students and inspired by recent events, a historical event or a even a single word --"bigot," for example.

Remember that we as people who are interested in activism and justice forget that not everyone is as assertive with their ideas. Many people who are "on our side," or could be on our side, may be uncomfortable about activism or standing up for a cause.

Be creative, understanding and gentle in your approach, and be sure to include celebration and socialization as part of the group's activism and organizing.

Changing the world isn't just about changing people's ideas about race, prejudice, and gender. It is about changing the way we approach the problems and how we educate ourselves and others in those regards.

Tad Thomas works with the Positive Youth Foundation

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