Spark! -- connecting people, igniting change

by Denise Robertson | Aug 31, 2010
| 1 Comment

Summary:

"Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart who soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow there, firm as weeds among stones." -- Charlotte Bronte

The Diversity Council is requesting funds for its Spark! anti-bias workshops. Our K-12 Spark! workshops are research-based, focusing on a model where four initial objectives are linked to improved intergroup relations and ultimately to behavioral change (reduction and eventual elimination of prejudice and discrimination).

Through Spark! workshops, the Diversity Council reaches about 15,000 K-12 students each year, increasing their knowledge about different people and perspectives; teaching respect for both their own and different cultures, heritages, and experiences; fostering empathy development to understand what it is like to be discriminated against or excluded; and utilizing critical thinking skills to learn how to recognize and confront bias and stereotypes.

By preparing students to interact respectfully with those who are different from them and to confront bias and stereotypes in themselves and others, we are mitigating the effects of racism by shaping the values, relationships, and systems that create a welcoming and inclusive community.

About You

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About You

First Name

Denise

Last Name

Robertson

Title

Development & Communications Director

Organization

Diversity Council

Country

United States, MN, Olmsted County

About Your Organization

Organization Name

Diversity Council

Organization Email

Organization Website

Organization Phone

507-282-9951

Organization Address

1130 1/2 7th St. NW, Suite 204

Organization City

Rochester

Organization Zipcode

55901

Brief description of your organization

The Diversity Council is a grassroots, community-focused, nonprofit organization whose vision is an inclusive and welcoming community in which every individual is respected. Through anti-bias education, we use diversity as the foundation to build a healthy, inclusive, and prosperous community. We also collaborate with and convene numerous businesses, organizations, and area residents.

Organization Country

United States, MN, Olmsted County

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Your idea

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Name your project

Spark! -- connecting people, igniting change

Country your work focuses on

United States, MN, Olmsted County

Describe your project. Explain the extent to which it mitigates the effects of racism

"Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart who soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow there, firm as weeds among stones." -- Charlotte Bronte
The Diversity Council is requesting funds for its Spark! anti-bias workshops. Our K-12 Spark! workshops are research-based, focusing on a model where four initial objectives are linked to improved intergroup relations and ultimately to behavioral change (reduction and eventual elimination of prejudice and discrimination).
Through Spark! workshops, the Diversity Council reaches about 15,000 K-12 students each year, increasing their knowledge about different people and perspectives; teaching respect for both their own and different cultures, heritages, and experiences; fostering empathy development to understand what it is like to be discriminated against or excluded; and utilizing critical thinking skills to learn how to recognize and confront bias and stereotypes.
By preparing students to interact respectfully with those who are different from them and to confront bias and stereotypes in themselves and others, we are mitigating the effects of racism by shaping the values, relationships, and systems that create a welcoming and inclusive community.

Project starting date

September 1, 2010

Project ending date

August 31, 2011

Total project budget - required field

$97,468

Innovation

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What makes your project unique?

Spark!--connecting people, igniting change--is a comprehensive series of age-appropriate workshops which focus on respecting human differences, presented in collaboration with area public and private schools. In 30- to 60-minute sessions once per grade each school year, pairs of facilitators trained by the Diversity Council deliver workshops to students in grades K-12, using curriculum designed to match a child's cognitive ability.

We are not aware of any other educational program that provides the same comprehensive, progressive anti-bias curriculum as the Spark! workshops. In fact, the success of our program's unique educational model was recognized in January 2008 when the nationally televised NBC TODAY Show highlighted our workshops (then called Prejudice Reduction Workshops). That story, entitled "Without Prejudice, Raising Kids to End Racism," praised our program's effectiveness in undoing bias and building tolerance, thereby better preparing students to compete in the global community. You can view the TODAY show video on our website's home page: www.diversitycouncil.org.

Impact

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Tell us about the social impact of your project as it relates to ONE of these three areas: Education, Employment or Housing

“To prevent any teasing or discrimination, people need understanding. Understanding of a person’s feelings, the differences, and the similarities. Then people need to think of how they would feel in the other person’s shoes. People who are teasing and discriminating need to get another whole perspective on things. That is why the diversity council comes to schools, because they are teaching people with prejudice that it’s okay to be different, everyone’s different.” (unedited comment of 4th grade participant in the Diversity Council’s Spark! workshops)

List any specific activities associated with the project and a timeline for the activities

The complexity of Spark! concepts grows from year to year. For example, Kindergartners explore basic concepts like recognizing "same" and "different;" middle school students discuss things like the history of prejudice in Minnesota, bullying, and sizism; and high school students delve into challenging topics like respecting people of different races, religions, abilities, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. Facilitators engage students in activites, multimedia presentations, and discussion to ensure participatory learning.

We use feedback from students, teachers, and facilitators to engage in a process of continuous improvement, according to this general timeline:
Jan-May -- Spark! workshops delivered in schools; teachers and facilitators complete written evaluations; conduct direct student assessments.
June-Aug. -- Review outcomes; report to schools and funders; update curriculum as needed; Spark! workshops delivered on demand to camps, school enrichment programs, and other venues.
July-Aug. -- Recruit and train facilitators; schedule Spark! workshops with school administration.
Sept.-Dec. -- Spark! workshops delivered in schools.

Please summarize the involvement of people of color in the decision-making of your project

The Diversity Council’s Education Director, James W. Robertson, 2nd, is African-American. He provides leadership and direction for all education programs and initiatives, including Spark!, and reports directly to the Executive Director.

The Diversity Council Board of Directors is comprised of about 36% people of color, and also includes members of multiracial families.

Almost 40% of our current Spark! facilitators are people of color, and we actively recruit people of color for our facilitator training classes. In our most recent facilitator training session, people of color comprised more than half of the trainees! This is an exciting development for the Diversity Council, since it is the facilitators who are the ones on the frontline, presenting Spark! workshops to area youth.

Please list which communities of color your project will involve and/or impact

Spark! workshops both involve and impact all communities of color represented in Rochester Public Schools (RPS) and other area schools. RPS has 27% minority enrollment, comprised of students from 66 countries of origin speaking 65 languages, as well as a small Native American population. Our workshops help create an inclusive, welcoming learning environment for all students, regardless of color.

What age group will your project impact?

Children (0-12 years), Teens/adolescents (13-19 years), Adults (20-60 years), Elders (60+ years).

Which gender(s) will your project focus on?

Male, Female.

What geographic area(s) will your project affect?

Southeastern MN.

If you selected either Twin Cities Metro Area or Other above, please specify or identify the area

Sustainability

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

If your project is a collaborative effort, please list the other organizations involved

We closely collaborate with leadership from the Rochester Public and Catholic Schools and Byron Public Schools, as well as from several other area public and private school districts. School administrators meet with the Diversity Council to review our curriculum. Principals at each school select a scheduler who works with us to create a comprehensive class schedule for teachers and facilitators. District personnel also provide technical and administrative support as needed, and assist us in evaluating the effectiveness of the Spark! curriculum and the quality of its delivery by our facilitators. To further engage teachers with Spark! workshops, we meet with teachers and students to ensure that Spark! curriculum remains relevant and current.

Who or what is expected to change as a result of your project?

Achievement of our initial goals, discussed above, leads to improved intergroup relations between students by increasing their ability to 1) establish relationships with those perceived as different, 2) respond appropriately to disrespectful behavior, 3) confront bias issues, and 4) feel safe, connected, and equal in school. This, in turn, leads to our long-term goal of reducing/ending prejudice.

What information will you provide in the final report to demonstrate the achievement of your results?

Our final report will indicate the extent to which we have achieved our initial learning outcomes as determined by the most recent direct student assessments, and include a summary of the most recent teacher and facilitator evaluations to determine whether we have met our targets for teacher satisfaction with Spark! content and delivery. We will also report any suggested curriculum improvements.

What methods will be used to gather the information?

Data is drawn primarily from two sources: 1) Teachers and facilitators evaluate our curriculum and its delivery after each workshop. 2) A statistically significant sample of students from several grade levels is surveyed each year after the workshops, using multiple choice and essay questions, to measure what they learned about workshop content, empathy, and critical thinking.

What do you hope to learn about racism and its impact?

Since Spark! focuses on K-12 education, we are particularly interested in learning about how racism affects learning outcomes (such as the achievement gap and disparities in graduation rates) and developing curriculum to mitigate the effects of racism both in schools and beyond the school walls.

What percentage do people of color comprise your board of directors?

36%, but note that some Caucasian board members live in multiracial families.

Documentation

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Funding sources: Please check all that apply

Individual donations, In-kind donations, Foundations, Businesses, Earned revenue, Local government.

Other

In submitting this application, the applicant agrees to the following (check all boxes)

The applicant will spend the money solely for the purpose stated in the grant award and will return the unexpended portion of the funds, if any. In addition, the applicant will provide an interim and/or final report, as required., The applicant realizes that payment of funds will be at the convenience of the Foundation. The Foundation reserves the right to cancel the grant and/or modify previously agreed-upon payments should such actions be deemed necessary by the Foundation., The applicant understands that the Foundation may review any or all information submitted as part of this request with advisors of the Foundation’s choosing, if deemed necessary by the Foundation., The applicant intends to comply with the terms of the Minnesota Charitable Solicitation Act (MS §309), if applicable..

Martina Yusay said: It was a good idea! I think every one must participate on this specially the students. - Scott Safadi about this Competition Entry. - 1961 days ago read more >

Denise Robertson updated this Competition Entry. - 3062 days ago

Denise Robertson submitted this idea. - 3082 days ago