SOAR discusses racial, cultural issues

Students hope for change


Ryan Barnett

Director of assessment, evaluation and research Silvy Un Lafayette and junior Helen Tefera listen to junior Iqra Abdi share her opinion during the SOAR meeting Feb. 24. SOAR met with the superintendent and his administration to discuss issues surrounding race in the district as a whole.

Grace Schultz and Ryan Barnett

While reflecting on the meetings conclusions senior Zoe Younger said she is optimistic for change to be seen in the curriculum after hearing her peers’ testimonials.

“The experiences of multilingual students was super eye-opening, for cabinet members and students alike,” Younger said. “I feel like there’s going to be change in (curriculum), which is making me very hopeful.”

Students Organized Against Racism (SOAR) met with Superintendent Astein Osei and his administrative cabinet Feb. 24 to continue their conversations regarding race.

Osei said himself and his cabinet have previously met with SOAR to discuss the issues with race in the school. 

“As I think about our historic mission, we specifically talk about energizing, enhancing the spirit of students,” Osei said. “Some of the things I heard today tells me that we’re still far off.”

Multi-lingual program member and junior Helen Tefera said although she was frightened to speak at first, she felt empowered to share her experience.

“I was nervous at first, but I know it’s my right to say something,” Tefera said. “I felt more comfortable as the meeting went on.”

Osei said he wants to incorporate racial issues in future curricula. 

“We need to stay on the course we are on and go deeper,” Osei said. “We need to continue to look at what we’re doing from a curriculum standpoint and how we are engaging students.”

Director of Communications Sara Thompson said student voices help push the administration to work efficiently.

Working in collaboration is absolutely essential for us to make a change in our system. We need to work in tandem with our students”

— Patrick Duffy

“[It’s] always great to hear from students, they challenge us and encourage us to do more, work faster. And they encourage us to be bold, be brave,” Thompson said.

Tefera said she thinks it’s important that we learn from our past. 

“We can learn from our past and change the future,” Tefera said. “Teachers should respect the students and see what they need. We can (introduce) change in a positive way.” 

Younger said she was excited to meet with the cabinet as she felt it showed the administration’s intention to hear student voices. 

“It’s very empowering. It makes me feel like they actually care about student voices and they’re not here to just meet their requirements,” Younger said.

Director of Curriculum and Instruction Patrick Duffy said he enjoyed hearing students’ call for action, and expects students to continue leading a movement for change.

“We are not just asking for student voice. We are developing students as leaders,” Duffy said.  “We have a rich tradition in St. Louis Park of developing leaders, we will expect nothing less of our students moving forward.”

Thompson said she hopes to create more student involvement in the planning processes to  create future curriculums.

“My dream is 100 plus students involved in a youth conference this summer to really share their voices as we head into the new strategic plan,” Thompson said.

Duffy believes the administration must work alongside students in order to make positive changes in the school district. 

“Working in collaboration is absolutely essential for us to make a change in our system. We need to work in tandem with our students,” Duffy said. “If as adults, we are going to eradicate systemic racism in our schools, we need to understand who we were, who we are and who we want to be.”