Creating a positive school culture matters in the Jefferson Parish Public School System. For proof, look no further than the 118 students who participated in the Jefferson Parish School Climate Leadership Training. After exploring their own experiences as students and what it truly means to initiate positive changes on campus, these young leaders wrapped up the day-long workshop with smiles, high fives, and the enthusiasm to make a difference.
“They are phenomenal,” said WestEd School Climate and Support Specialist Leora Wolf-Prusan, who helped lead the day’s workshop. “Last year we had (attendance) in the 50’s and 60’s and this year we doubled, which just shows that not only is the Parish demonstrating a commitment to the work, but that there is excitement and reception to the need for it.”
Students from most JPPSS high schools and even one middle school (Roosevelt Middle) took part in the training. The workshop was facilitated by WestEd, a California-based nonprofit that offers school climate training to education organizations in the U.S. and abroad. The students are members of their school climate club. These young leaders will take what they learn back to campus and develop a plan for positive changes.
“I’m so proud of you all. You bring a smile to my face,” JPPSS Superintendent Isaac G. Joseph told the students during the workshop in the JPPSS Administration Building on September 26. “We really appreciate you and everything that you stand for. Just know that you are very important on your school campuses and you have a wide circle of influence.”
Climate clubs are groups of students meant to offer a fair representation of the make-up of an entire school. These groups started in JPPSS last school year. They participated in a similar workshop with WestEd last fall. Climate club leaders from each school even met with Superintendent Joseph this past spring to share their accomplishments and what barriers are keeping them from reaching future goals.
“Their job is to assist our PBIS teams in improving school climate,” said JPPSS School Climate Transformation Grant Project Director Erin Valls. “So, they will come up with an action plan and work towards trying to complete some goals and ideas that can help improve school climate.”
During the workshops, students are encouraged to stay engaged in the workshop, speak their truth, step outside of their comfort zone, and take care of themselves and each other. They participated in team building exercises and looked at stories of change taking place at school systems around the nation. Along with answering questions about their own school climate in group settings, the workshop also gave students the opportunity to share individual stories about the challenges they face.
“One student told me ‘I had never gotten the chance to be with students at other schools,’ and they just felt so comfortable with each other,” said Valls. “It’s just great that they got to see that they are all kids. They all have similar wants and needs, and they all got along great.”