On Tuesday, May 1st, Student Ambassadors, teachers, and family members gathered at the Columbia Heights Community Center for the last time, with tacos, prizes, and final reflections on the months we had spent together.
For the 48 DC public and public charter school students who participated in our Ambassador Challenge, the dinner was primarily a celebration of their accomplishments and a way to collect their scholarships. For us as an organization, however, it was an important opportunity to obtain feedback from these students in order to continue to improve our program and the competition itself.
Everyone agreed that the middle school students who were included for the first time this year more than held their own, sometimes surprising their older peers and teachers with just how passionate and skilled they were in presenting their arguments and in providing critical feedback to older presenters.
One older student drew chuckles from the crowd when she admitted that having the younger students around forced her to up her game. She didn’t want to be upstaged by kids who she said may be a foot shorter than she was.
Parents were particularly vocal in expressing feedback. They shared the impact the Challenge Academy and Ambassador Challenge had on their children, empowering them to write and speak about issues that are particularly meaningful to them. Parents expressed that the One World Program (and Challenge Academy) was not only an opportunity for their children to refine their writing and presentation skills, but also an opportunity for them to grow into determined, confident, and passionate young men and women. Similarly, students praised One World for encouraging them to vocalize their opinions and views on issues of social, political, and economic importance. The Challenge was the first time that some students shared their stories, such as Tyaja Barnes who presented on teen pregnancy.
For staff, the night reflected what we already knew. Especially in these turbulent times, our young people are desperate to be heard and they have a lot to say when we listen.