One of the pieces I’m appreciating in this process is the community building that is necessary in creating a school. In a traditional public school, there is an assumptive, built-in clientele. Everyone, basically, opts in to their local school district unless they choose to opt out (through homeschool, private school, or enrolling in a charter). Here, though, we must build our “customer base” and deal with such issues as marketing, advertising and promotions: unfamiliar territory for a life long educator.
What isn’t unfamiliar territory, though, is community building. I built communities in my classroom and in my school each year. It’s a neat dovetail with the Future School philosophy to extend that perspective beyond the classroom and out into the students, parents, and community leaders that we’re working with. After all, Future School is all about extending learning beyond the barriers of the classroom and into the real world. I’m also blessed to have a coworker who is an absolute genius at community and coalition building.
We recently hosted a Diversity Dinner at the Fort Smith Boys and Girls Club. Now, when I say “we,” I’m actually referring to the Future School Youth Advisors who organized the event. In keeping with our philosophy of being student centered and empowering youth, we (meaning the adults) stepped back and let the kids take charge. From publicizing the event to organizing entertainment to budgeting and fundraising, two of our youth advisors put together the entire event. If you’ve ever relinquished the reins and allowed teenagers to take charge, you’re probably aware that it can be a discomfiting experience. However, the reward in the end is incredible as you witness the kids developing real skills in front of your eyes. As one student said during their speech to the guests of the dinner, “We got to meet the mayor of our town as we put together this event. Not many other kids I know can say that.”