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Sumners on METCO

Posted By Denebola On February 15, 2011 @ 6:11 am In 50th Edition,Education | Comments Disabled

Denebola sat down with METCO counselor Katani Sumner about the current state of the program, which aims to eliminate racial imbalance in education by busing students from Boston and Springfield to neighboring suburbs.

How did you become involved with METCO at South?

My first experience at South was in September 1997 when I came as interim counselor at South and Brown for a year before grad school.

What are some of the greatest challenges you face as METCO counselor?

Trying to help students become internally motivated in the midst of what they feel as low expectations, lack of role models, and traveling long distances, and distance with local schools.

In your opinion, what role does METCO play in encouraging diversity at South?

I think it’s essential. Although there are people of color living in the community, it doesn’t necessarily offer any economic or experiential diversity, or sharing of resources.  Especially when we lack diversity in the faculty, at least we can have diversity with students.

What are some of the major changes or milestones you’ve witnessed at South?

I know that since I was here in 1997 to 1998 and in the 2000s, there is a definite school push towards minimizing the achievement gap. It starts at the administration and inseminates throughout the school.
There has also been a need to look at curriculum, not just in terms of race but in terms of different backgrounds.
We now have an African American literature class, half of which are students of color. Harambee is another new addition, and that is another great example of how we diversify the music department.
The success of Hairspray was positive and it was by far the most diverse cast I’ve seen on either side of the city.
Never has there been a more diverse cast. This is a testament to our focus to make [the school] more exciting for all students.
What are your goals for the METCO program?

To have as many students on the honor roll and in upper level classes as they are able.
Also to support school-wide efforts around race, culture, and diversity. I’m really proud of what we have done recently. Last year, we had the school shut down for a race discussion. We trained 40 students to become advisory leaders for race day. There is definitely a school-wide energy.
There are a lot of things happening here like the tutoring program. It started as a METCO tutoring program but now the majority of students [for whom] it is mandatory to come are not METCO students. It can benefit everyone.

What are some advantages of the METCO program for Newton families? Boston families? Faculty and administrators?
As we are a part of a global community, the more you commit to working more effectively together the better. There is always an added value in learning how to become a more connected group with people who aren’t like you.
It adds to the strength of Newton by being inclusive.
Its also important to note that METCO is equally beneficial to the Newton community as it is to students.

Is there anything you would change or add to the METCO program?

I am looking forward to starting an African American and Latino Scholars program, but it requires more resources [to start up].  It won’t just be for METCO students but for all students of color. I think it would be great.
This program will help establish that culture can be cool.
You can be artistic, you can be athletic, but you can still be smart. I’m trying to create this sense of culture and reinforce it.

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URL to article: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/02/15/sumners-on-metco/

URLs in this post:

[1] Metco future uncertain: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2007/09/23/metco-future-uncertain/

[2] Successful METCO program expands to high schools: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/02/15/successful-metco-program-expands-to-high-schools/

[3] Student leaders discuss race issues: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/04/14/student-leaders-discuss-race-issues/

[4] Race Week encourages conversation, stirs emotions: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/04/14/race-week-encourages-conversation-stirs-emotions/

[5] METCO students integrated into South: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/02/15/metco-students-integrated-into-south/

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