Written by Corrina Hui, Design Crew Project Lead

Dear Foundation Champion,

Happy Holidays to you. Thank you for your support of our students at Elsie Allen High School (EAHS). As we look toward 2022, we’d like to share details about a current project our students are doing, the important role students are playing, and the skills they are developing. Given the incredible opportunities that the EAHS Foundation has provided our students, and our shared values of empowering our students to achieve their goals, your support will help make our students’ vision a reality!

Our goal and process:

Our design crew, which includes students and staff from Cesar Chavez Language Academy (CCLA) and EAHS, plus the Director of Career Technical Education (CTE) for Santa Rosa City Schools (SRCS), has been working on the development of robust CTE Program offerings and K-12 alignment. Our students on the design crew have diverse stories, experiences, and skills, including nontraditional perspectives that have been historically silenced. Half of our design crew is composed of students: our CCLA students are 8th graders who have attended CCLA since Kindergarten, and our EAHS students are in 9th-12th grade.

The goal of the design crew is to collaborate to grow equity with creativity. Our design crew is seeking to understand what the deeper needs of our community are, and where there are gaps in access. In the past few months, our focus has been to refine the EAHS Graduate Profile through hours of empathy interviews and reflection. Our design crew is engaging 7th-12th grade students to define the skills that each graduate hopes to be empowered with by the time they leave high school. This will serve as the “north star” that informs the creative design of pilots, courses, pathways, robust CTE programs, K-12 alignment, and communication with current and future students and community members of CCLA, EAHS, and SRCS.

Throughout our process, our design crew is committed to staying connected with the wider community: students engage and integrate the voices of students at CCLA and EAHS who are not on the design crew. We check in with the Superintendent and Associate Superintendent of SRCS regularly, colleagues at the CTE Foundation Sonoma County join our design sessions, and our students will present to the SRCS Board of Education in February 2022. We will continue to engage families, staff, and community members for input and support. You are invited!

Our students’ important role and the skills they’re developing:

It is so important that students are leading the design crew. While the goal of education is to serve our students, adults (however well-intentioned) tend to make decisions without our students. When adults make decisions for our students, the impact is inevitably limited. Only our current students know what it’s like to be in their shoes today, living through the impact of multiple years of fires and a global pandemic. The world is changing, and aspects of our current system are outdated, so we must design with our students to ensure we are meeting their needs and supporting their dreams.

The design crew empowers our students by building their courage and capacity to codesign their learning experiences with adults. We leverage the cultural and linguistic assets of our students to engage the community. The majority of our students speak multiple languages, so they conduct empathy interviews with fellow students in both English and Spanish. This way, the voices of students who just immigrated here are also included and represented. Our design crew students have families from multiple countries and are engaged in a range of activities on and off campus, so they are connecting with and including a wide spectrum of student experiences across the two campuses.

Witnessing our students’ empathy, compassion, and commitment to our community creates immense hopefulness. Our students are creative and dedicated. Let’s listen to them, empower them, and support them. Stay tuned for more updates on this journey!