By Samantha Levra
Community Engagement Coordinator
School spirit is a requirement in the high school experience. I can recall countless Friday nights spent cheering on my twin brother as he played for our high school’s football team. Each touchdown sent a current of energy through the stands, and although the football team were the ones running and scoring on the field, it felt like a true school-wide effort. Years later, I still value a strong sense of teamwork, and through my work at Green Dot Public Schools, I hope to help facilitate the feeling of “team” between students, their school, and the neighborhood community.
Changing the Way We View Spirit
United Parents and Students was founded to help families address the factors beyond school boundaries that not only pose barriers to learning, but also inhibit quality of life.
As UPAS’s Community Engagement Coordinator at Ánimo Watts College Preparatory Academy, I support parents and students in developing leadership skills as community organizers so that they can advocate for the needs of their families and communities.
For example, parents at Ánimo Watts and neighboring Ánimo Mae Jemison Charter Middle School came together around the issue of traffic safety in their local area.
Through their efforts, we were able to secure larger school zone signs as well as signs limiting dangerous left turns and U-turns in front of school during school hours.
Another way community spirit comes alive at our school has been through the Ánimo Watts Fall Carnival. The Fall Carnival has been an annual tradition at Ánimo Watts, and last year I worked with student leaders to host and expand our special event.
We thought the carnival might be able to not only bring students together, but also parents and the greater community, spreading our school spirit and sharing student successes beyond school walls. The connections and collective excitement that build up over the course of Spirit Week leading up to the Fall Carnival is a true celebration of school community.
Who's Got Spirit
While the carnival featured the cornerstones of fun family events: food, decorations, music, and plenty of games and activities for all ages, it kicked off with a call for civic engagement.
The day began with voter registration presentations to high school seniors, which concluded with help registering to vote.
And it wasn’t just seeing 85 seniors pre-register to vote that made us proud, it was hearing so many of them discuss their desire to use their voice and right to vote as a means to represent those in their community who may feel voiceless.
This was an opportunity for families to engage with community institutions and access additional resources. We even had deputies from the local Sheriff’s Department volunteer to run games for students and meet with families.
My hope is that through the work of the amazing leaders on campus at Ánimo Watts, our students and parents will continue to feel that our school is more than a building; rather, a dependable team that works for the surrounding community to ensure the success of all.