SAGA Innovations

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SAGA Innovations

Josh Tures, Amena Wallace and Garrett Black

June 21, 2017

SAGA’s select group of Leadership Fellows not only support students during their tutorial sessions, but they invest time in special projects that  support their entire school communities outside of that space.

After leading an after school workshop on advocacy and self-identification, Bowen High School Leadership Fellows Amena Wallace and Garrett Black, joined forces to create and advise an extension of the workshop now known as the M.E. (Minority Empowerment) Club. Their goal was to create a safe space for students to engage in healthy discussions about societal issues that affect their everyday lives.

As advisors, Amena and Garrett constantly strive to present numerous perspectives and opinions to the participants, allowing the students to create their own opinions based on the information that they receive and make positive improvements on the road to self-identification. The club meets after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays for an hour and a half. Students always have the opportunity to participate, debate, and listen. In addition to their weekly meetings, the M.E. Club also helps to lead school initiatives such as installing a water fountain system  in the school hallways and local community service events like Relay for Life.

Q:  How was M.E. formed?

AW:  During the Fall, Bowen’s administration hosted a “College and Career Day”  for Freshmen and Junior students. They asked the SAGA Program to host one a workshop that was  separate from college and/or careers so our team decided that our workshop would be a safe space for students to discuss social justice issues, stereotypes,  self-identification and issues students face relating to those topics. We had three rounds of students participate our session. We didn’t know what to expect but each group had a lot to say especially surrounding the wave of police brutality across the country and their own experiences and interactions with law enforcement in Chicago. After seeing how engaged they were and eager to discuss potential solutions, Garrett and I  decided that providing them an outlet to continue the conversation was a must.

Q:  Why is it important for your students to have exposure to this type of club?

GB: Students should be able to self identify and acknowledge their feelings. They don’t always have the opportunity to express themselves with parents, family, or friends given their environment and if they do, they usually aren’t proactive with difficult conversations. Teachers may not have time in the classroom space to have these conversations and students may not feel comfortable in that setting.  It’s important to start these conversations now because they have a lot of ideas and opinions about equity in society, their schools, changes they want  to see, and this provides an outlet for them now and to be better prepared in the future.

Q: How is your club  supported?

GB:  Bowen and SAGA’s administration  is extremely supportive and excited for the workshop and our club.  Principal Nia Abdullah has provided us with reading materials and themes to discuss. We have nine members and a full student executive board that plans events, outings, and initiatives to advocate and improve their school experience. We’ve participated in community service initiatives like Relay for Life and “Hashtag Lunchbag” where the students were able to fill and decorate lunch bags and cards to deliver to the homeless.

Q: What are you most proud of?

AW: The small, intangible things like seeing the students become more outspoken, well-versed, and able to express thoughts, mature, and gain confidence.  It’s amazing to see how much positive growth the student’s have made in such a short time. We’re still kind of surprised with how consistent and successful it’s been.



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