Dear Friends of Humanities Amped,
We are excited to share with you the enormous success of our 2019 Conference, “Resilient Roots”! In particular, this year’s conference serves as a concrete example of not only what our students are able to achieve, but how much the Humanities Amped program has grown in just five years: the 2015 conference featured four research and action project presentations by 25 students, and these numbers have increased steadily. This year’s conference consisted of nearly 90 student-created presentations, workshops, and dialogues, and was attended by LSU students and faculty, East Baton Rouge Parish School District faculty, staff, and students, community members, and over 300 McKinley High School students both within and outside of the Humanities Amped program.
Artist and educator Donney Rose delivered the event’s keynote address in which he remarked that “the young people of Humanities Amped [...] through research and social action, dare to challenge the status quo of educational structures to create a more substantive learning experience for themselves and for their peers.” This address was followed by the presentation of several awards to Humanities Amped supporters. Megan Sheehan-Dean received the Bobby Thompson Humble Hero of Social Justice Award for her selfless volunteer support of the program, and Dr. Solimar Otero, director of the LSU Program in Comparative Literature, received the first annual Susan Weinstein Greenhouse Award for cultivating growth and facilitating development to support our student community. Finally, the first annual Kaiya Smith True Blue Senior Action Research Award was given to graduating student Mya Donahue for her excellence in critical research, civic action, and community building.
The conference itself consisted of three themed sessions: Improving Education, Seeking Restorative Justice, and Supportive Healing, each with up to eleven concurrent panels of three team or individual presentations moderated by LSU graduate students and community members. In each presentation, Humanities Amped students (sophomores, juniors, seniors, and English Language Learners) presented personal narrative, academic research and a review of relevant literature, field work, data analysis, and plans for or the results of the implementation of an action project aimed at addressing the problem they had identified and explored. Following each presentation, students fielded audience questions about their work.
Junior team "Orgullo" (Hector Alvarez, D'Quarius Robertson, Jayla Morgan, Chavaria Price) and mentor SK Groll following student presentation "Making the LGBTQ+ Community Feel Safe"
Junior team "Positive Panthers" (Rochelle Cornelius, Kevin Brown, Kenderick Marshall, Jerranie Gray, and Kennedi Davis) present "Building Better Relationships Between Teachers and Students at McKinley."
In reflecting on her conference experience, Humanities Amped studentMakaylen explained, “Before I got in [Humanities] Amped I would have never seen myself doing something like this. I can honestly say it has built my confidence to another level. I feel like I can take on any challenge that’s given my way.” All in all, this opportunity for Humanities Amped students to share their work with each other and the community in a professional and public space reflects the program’s goal of being a concrete model of possibility for what students are capable of and what education can be: a space for teachers, students, and community members to learn together how we can build a world that we truly desire. We are so grateful to our numerous volunteers, to East Baton Rouge Parish School System for investing in this unapologetically public education with us, our LSU support, our donors, our partners, and those who attended the conference. Thank you for growing this program with us!
The Humanities Amped students continue to engage in research and action in preparation for the April 11th Conference.
Two teams of McKinley High School juniors have been working with alumni and community members on projects focused on South Baton Rouge, the neighborhood around the school. The students identified a need in the area--the lack of a grocery store offering fruits, vegetables, and fresh meat--and are taking the necessary steps to bring in such a business. Their process to realize this huge and important dream for the area has involved several meetings with city development professionals and representatives from the mayor’s office. On Monday, March 31st, the team canvassed the area of South Baton Rouge along with members of the South Baton Rouge Civic Association to gather input from those in the neighborhood. They have also been considering the potential impact a new grocery story could have on local businesses.
Humanities Amped students and mentor Christine Sparrow
Humanities Amped mentor and Advocate columnist Ed Pratt wrote an exciting article about the team’s project last month, which you can read at this link. In the article he remarks, “Listening to these students and watching them as they were schooled by the representatives from the mayor’s office, I reflected on conversations I’ve had in recent years about the negative direction of some of our children. These young people, though, encourage me each time I meet with them.” He acknowledges the difficulty of what the students are working to achieve, but concludes “I believe in these students. You ought to also.”
If you would like to see these students and other members of Humanities Amped present their research and action, please join us at our 5th Annual Research Conference on Thursday, April 11 at the LSU Student Union.