This spring, GEAR UP staff collected applications and interviewed candidates for the opportunity to be a GEAR UP Ambassador for the 2015-2016 school year. Thirteen ambassadors from the class of 2017 and 2018 were selected and are now ready to kick-off the summer with several fun, educational, leadership activities.
During the last week of school, ambassadors came to the GEAR UP room for an afternoon of relationship building. The afternoon started with a potluck lunch that included homemade tamales, mac ‘n’ cheese, Hawaiian roll sandwiches, and various desserts. While eating, students were given an M&M and received a corresponding question based on the color of their M&M. It was important for the ambassadors to get to know each other’s names so the group took a few minutes getting to know their peers’ names along with their favorite food.
The next activity involved getting to know each staff member and ambassador’s life story. Everyone drew their favorite toy as a kid, what concert they want to go to, a special memory, an adult (other than their parents) whom they really respect, something they would like to try that they haven’t done yet, and a job they would like to have in the future. Everyone shared their story and learned about each other’s backgrounds. The students began learning how they were alike and different from their peers, which started a few positive side conversations.
Once the group got to know a little bit more about each other’s backgrounds, it was time to learn how assumptions could block our ability to really get to know a person. Two groups each came up with a list of fifteen cliques, ethnics groups, and people with diverse interests that are represented at Kiona-Benton High School. The groups were read aloud and ambassadors stood up if they were a part of the group. They were told that all the representatives of different groups are what make up the community at Ki-Be High School. The most important idea from this activity was that we have to see people as individuals and not as labels. In fact, many of the students identified as being from multiple groups. At one point, a student pointed out that site manager, Alyse Pivovarnik, stood for both the jock and nerd groups, and asked, “So were you beating yourself up?” Alyse explained that people can be members of multiple groups and that is what makes well-rounded human beings. This activity was definitely a learning moment for the Kiona Benton GEAR UP Ambassadors.
The last major lesson was about suspending judgements. The purpose of this activity was to suspend judgements and see that individuals have their stories. The challenge is to hear their stories. Everyone was paired up and directed to stare at each other for thirty seconds, which proved to be pretty uncomfortable for some students. The partners then stood back to back and were asked what they thought their partner’s dream car, favorite breakfast cereal, type of music they listen to, future job, and hobbies/ things they do in their spare time are. After discussing these judgements, everyone saw that their answers had some truth, but most were completely wrong.
Two goals were accomplished with this training. The first was that students were able to bond as a group. Sure, some students “knew” each other from classes, but they realized how much they did not actually know. The group shared an afternoon of laughter, good food, and fun. The second goal was that students received insight about the culture they have to work to change at Ki-Be. Even their own judgments and assumptions hindered their interactions with their peers. The ambassadors are going to work on creating a college-going culture within the school and now know that they have to overcome suspending judgements and assumptions of their peers in order to effectively do so.