Making It Personal: FCS Diversity Awareness

Article excerpt

A Note from the Editor

This second FCS Showcase Edition (the first one was published in January, 2004) again highlights exemplary FCS programs and activities from across the U.S. How did we find these examples of the best in FCS for this Practice section? We asked the winners of AAFCS' Teacher of the Year awards from the last few years to submit an article about the program idea or activity for which they were recognized. We know there are many more outstanding projects, programs and initiatives being undertaken by FCS professionals every day in our schools and communities. We invite you to submit 500-600 word articles describing your program so that we can continue to use this journal to share these success stories, and to stimulate ideas for new initiatives. We also invite you to share this FCS Showcase Edition with administrators, parents, policy makers and others who need to know what today's FCS programs are doing to teach essential lifeskills in our students.

Cranston High School East

CRANSTON * RI

As the demographics of our schools change, school leaders and teachers are challenged with meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse population. Schools and classroom instruction must change in response to the community and students they serve. The latest research on secondary school reforms concludes that efforts to create a caring, responsive school community does result in improved academic achievement. Schools should be helping students to see diversity in its broadest sense, as an expression of the American experience, and preparing them for the interdependency of life in the 21st century.

I began working 9 years ago on a project to personalize the FCS program in a large inner city high school-Cranston High School East in Cranston, Rhode Island. It is now the home to an award-winning FCS-sponsored Diversity Awareness Program. The goals of the program are to help students meet key FCS standards, to personalize a large school community, and to fulfill the school's mission of graduating respectful, ethical, responsible, and courteous individuals, who can work independently and cooperatively.

Since its inception, I have worked cooperatively with all academic departments and the student body to integrate diversity issues into the fabric of the school. The focus is on practices that include character, mutual respect, ethics, civil rights, human rights, family traditions, life styles, self-expression, and personal attributes (e.g., ethnic identity, gender, physical ability), all of which are integrated into the awareness program as well into the daily FCS curricula. To celebrate the school community, a week long school-wide event takes place every April and it coincides with National Make A Difference Week (www.pointsoflight.org).

The annual program content is customized, organized, and implemented with the assistance of the FCCLA chapters and the FCS department. A theme is selected, and a variety of interactive and student-generated activities occur: keynote speakers, assemblies (including original student works and skits), classroom presentations, panel discussions, interactive workshops, debates, songwriting and poetry slams, a fashion show, recipe contest, international food tasting, and student talent show. …