Mid-Peninsula High School launched a new Human Relations course devoted to studying various forms of community engagement. The course is geared to focus on issues that matter the most to the students so they can be invested in the programs they launch.
The class recently hosted a Social Justice Panel featuring representatives from the Ecumenical Hunger Program, Boy & Girls Club, and the Bay Area Anti-Trafficking Program. With the help of their teacher, Janel Coughran, the students organized the panel and developed a set of questions for the visiting experts. During the Q&A session Zara King asked Asra Hussain from the Boys & Girls Club about her greatest success as an advocate. Asra replied simply, “we give them a safe place to be.” Given the everyday obstacles young people at the Boys & Girls Club face, her straightforward answer resounded meaningfully throughout the room.
After the panel, the students split into three groups to focus on areas of potential social engagement—advocacy, donations, and affecting change at school. The Donation Group came up with a clever way to raise funds for the Ecumenical Hunger Program (EHP) in East Palo Alto. Their plan was to stage a Coin War at school, which raised in excess of $1,000 for the EHP. The Advocacy Group launched a campus campaign to spread social awareness in the student body. The campaign used creative posters to educate their peers and inspire social action. The third group created a school survey that addressed the topic of healthy eating on campus. The group then met with administrators to develop a strategy to improve healthy eating on campus.
Community engagement is a longstanding tradition at Mid-Pen. The school holds two all school Community Service Days every year, and students earn graduation credit by performing community service. The new Human Relations course adds to this tradition by providing a way for students to formally study social issues and launch into action.