In light of recent controversy surrounding the missing black and Latino girls in the District, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a initiative to support young women of color.

Joined by the Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles and D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Antwan Wilson, Bowser announced the launch of “Reign: Empowering Young Women as Leaders,” a multi-pronged initiative for girls in DCPS, on Monday, March 27 at Kelly Miller Middle School in Northeast.

“As we continue making the investments necessary to give every student in DCPS a world-class education and the resources and support they need to reach their full potential, Reign will ensure that our young women of color are not left behind,” Bowser said.

The initiative aims to build community, confidence and leadership skills in young women.

The schools system expects to get more resources to address disparities in student satisfaction, graduation rates and PARCC scores.

“We know that different students have different needs and that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions,” she said. “Next school year is just the beginning for Reign and, in fitting with the goals of the initiative, we will continue to expand the program based on the feedback we receive from the young women in our schools.”

The initiative’s three pillars are:

• Creating spaces for young women of color to build community, confidence and leadership skills inside and outside of school, starting with a citywide conference for them on June 3, and continuing as a series of workshops in the 2017-18 school year;

• Ensuring that schools are empowering places for girls by providing support to teachers and staff with training on gender and racial equity and expanding the health and gender curriculum in DCPS; and

• The launch of Reign Innovation Grants to improve academic and social outcomes for young women of color by focusing on academic development, family engagement and social-emotional supports.

“Through Reign, we will be able to help more of our young women of color grow into the leaders we know they can be,” Wilson said. “This is a critical socio-emotional investment across health, wellness, and identity for our young women of color, which will allow us to better support our students as we work to close the achievement gap.”

DCPS held listening sessions with more than 100 girls of color to hear directly from students on how schools could better support them.

They said students responses included: “I would like a space to talk about things like feelings [and] learn about each other, how to work in groups, talk about your day, and get rid of stress,” and “we need to learn to build our confidence.”

Bowser mentioned the program in her 2017 State of the District Address as part of the six things her administration has done to protect the city’s youth.

“We remind our young girls and boys that we understand how tough growing up can be  — the challenges they face are tougher than even what most of us experienced when we were their age,” Bowser said. “They should know that there are adults who care, and that we all want them to succeed.”

Claudia Luján, director of Reign, said young women of color at DCPS helped created the program by voicing what supports would help them thrive academically and socio-emotionally.

“In the hundreds of students we spoke with, we heard that young women of color wanted support in leadership, health and wellness, and identity, so that’s what we are seeding for them,” she said.

Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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