When students become part of solutions in their communities, the results can be innovative and impressive. Students that are involved in their larger communities through school programs often feel a sense of inclusion and belonging in their own school communities, leading to better education outcomes and a path of civic engagement that can last far beyond their grade school years.
That’s the theory behind Scholars Engaged for Action (SEFA), our after-school engagement program that aims to mobilize students as leaders who understand, interpret, and help in developing a school-wide culture that fosters civic engagement and community problem-solving. SEFA is just one part of our larger Equity in Education campaign, a comprehensive initiative designed to support educators, engage parents and caregivers, and empower students.
Shannon Griffin, our senior policy advocate, partnered with Melva L. Ware, Ph.D., education advocate, and educators at the Charter School of New Castle to develop and launch Scholars Engaged for Action (EFA) program in 2021.
Students in the SEFA program, which consist of grades 4 - 8, are engaged in after-school personal development and service activities that support and strengthen core academic skills in literacy and numeracy, while inspiring self confidence, efficacy and civic engagement. Instead of isolated focus on reading, writing and mathematics proficiency, for example, SEFA students, working in clubs or teams, use reading, writing, research, data collection, data analysis, critical thinking and public speaking skills to identify, plan and take actions that address community and social justice issues about which they are passionate.
The SEFA programs convene in two nine-week sessions. In the first session, students become an engaged community that plans and acts to achieve a positive change, using a five-stage process:
- Form the Service Community
- Identify Action Issue
- Plan & Review the Action
- Conduct the Action
- Document/Share the Action Results
The first session concludes with a final project display where the students have an opportunity to show what they’ve been working on at an event hosted by their school.
The second session emphasizes developing leadership abilities within an engaged school culture. Students identify personal and community achievement goals, seek out enrichment opportunities, and demonstrate self-advocacy skills.
The Charter School of New Castle's first cohort of SEFA students have completed their first session of the pilot program with overwhelming success — and have two great service projects to show for it.
The students, divided between two groups: upper elementary and middle school, were tasked with identifying, organizing, and implementing a project that would tackle an issue that affects their schools or communities.
The upper elementary student project was focused on helping people who are experiencing homelessness. Students in 4th grade saw a need for supplies to help the homeless in New Castle County, and organized a fundraiser to gather those supplies — and raised over $1,000! Over 100 essential care packages will be donated to the Hope Center in New Castle, DE. In addition, students will make “snack packs” for children at the shelter’s after-school program.
The middle school project was focused on addressing negative social media challenges by creating positive messaging through art within the schools and organizing a cleaning schedule and hanging art murals in student bathrooms. This project was led by students in grades 5 - 7. The student designed murals have been installed throughout the school, creating a greater sense of stewardship and school pride.
And this work is just getting started.
We will continue to work with our partners at the Charter School of New Castle to conduct an EFA program annually, and we hope to expand this work to even more schools in Delaware.
If you’re a student, parent, or educator who is interested in bringing bringing the Equity in Education campaign to your school, please reach out to Shannon Griffin at email@example.com.
A special thank you to our partners on the Charter School of New Castle’s SEFA program:
- LaRetha Odumosu, PhD, CSNC Executive Director, Middle School
- Rachel Valentin M.Ed. MPA, CSNC Executive Director, Elementary School
- Melva L. Ware, Ph.D., Lead Curriculum / Evaluation Developer
- Keia Briscoe, 5th Grade Educator, Lead Staff Support
- Nicole Esdaile, Lead Parent Advisor / Academic Equity Coordinator
- Michelle Johnson, 4th Grade Educator, Staff Support
- Shania Trammell, Academic Equity Coordinator