To support and honor Black History Month, and in particular our engaged youth, Makin It Happen is highlighting this inspiring example of our young people taking action!
In an inspiring tale of student-led activism and collaboration, Youth Organizers United (Y.O.U.), a diverse group of high school students in Manchester, achieved a significant milestone by creating and introducing a Black History class in the school district. This remarkable two-year journey that led to the development of the class, the dedicated efforts of the Y.O.U. group, and the unique features of this groundbreaking initiative were shared in a breakout session at Manchester Memorial High School on Martin Luther King Day at the 2024 MLK Community Celebration.
The journey began two years ago when members of Youth Organizers United recognized a gap in the existing curriculum—a lack of comprehensive education on Black history. Motivated by a shared commitment to inclusivity and a desire to promote a more thorough understanding of America’s history, the group embarked on a mission to create a class that would address this void.
Y.O.U. took a meticulous approach to develop the curriculum for the Black History class. Leveraging the Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum, the group ensured that the content met rigorous academic standards. The result was a well-rounded syllabus that covered crucial aspects of Black history, offering students a deeper insight into the contributions, struggles, and triumphs of the Black community throughout history.
Armed with a carefully crafted curriculum, Y.O.U. presented their proposal to the school board. The presentation highlighted the importance of incorporating a Black History class, not only for the benefit of students of color but for the entire student body. The Y.O.U. group emphasized the significance of promoting diversity and fostering an inclusive educational environment.
After gathering signatures on a petition and garnering support from the school board, the Black History class is set to pilot this fall at Manchester Central High School. This milestone marks a significant achievement for the group, as well as a positive step toward a more comprehensive and diverse educational experience for students in the district.
The Y.O.U. committee meets twice a week for two hours, providing students with ample opportunities for in-depth exploration and discussion. As a testament to the class’s academic rigor, it counts as both an elective and a civics credit, further enhancing its appeal to students. Past achievements from the organization also include getting a student representative on the school board, which took eight years to accomplish.
Sudi Lett, the class advisor for Y.O.U., emphasizes the non-political nature of the committee. Characterizing it as a “free space,” Lett stresses that the group is centered on addressing issues rather than being politically driven. This distinction guarantees that students participate in meaningful discussions and learning experiences enriched by diverse perspectives from all members. Sudi elaborates on how students collaboratively identify and select the issues they wish to address. Looking forward, the students are interested in tackling climate-based issues in the community.
The group is open to new members, welcoming fresh perspectives and voices to contribute to their mission. Furthermore, Y.O.U. aims to expand its initiatives beyond Manchester, aspiring to introduce similar programs in more cities across the state.
The story of Youth Organizers United and their journey to create a Black History class is a testament to the power of student-led activism and the positive impact it can have on education. As the class takes its first steps at Manchester Central High School, it paves the way for a more inclusive and comprehensive understanding of history, inspiring students to become active participants in shaping a diverse and equitable future.