An DC+XQ school bus on the streets of Washington, D.C. (Courtesy photo)
An DC+XQ school bus on the streets of Washington, D.C. (Courtesy photo)

As a student in Dunbar High School’s Black Studies department, Kidus Zerihun often delved into African-American history and culture while visiting museums and completing class projects. He also took part in professional development opportunities as an intern at the Federal Housing Finance Agency. 

These experiences were at the forefront of Kidus’ mind throughout the last seven months as he sat alongside dozens of students, teachers, families, and alumni to develop Dunbar’s DC+XQ Redesign. 

The Dunbar and Cardozo Education Campuses recently counted among the first of several District public schools to roll out the DC+XQ Redesign this year. It is an exercise that engages young people and other stakeholders to envision and execute their ideal high school experience. 

Over the next several months, Dunbar students and staff members will put in place a holistic, Afrofuturistic education model that allows students, regardless of area of study, to utilize technology and directly interact with community institutions to solve real-world problems and advance their college and career goals. 

Kidus, a junior at Dunbar, said that project-based learning sits at the center of the DC+XQ Redesign, as requested by his peers. 

“We have a lot to improve on to make school better for everyone to enjoy, like giving students life-based classes and not just memorizing [facts] and graduating,” Kidus said. 

“It’s about making school more engaging and giving students some knowledge and hands-on experience,” he added. “The best part is learning something and getting a chance to really go out there and see how processes are done.” 

While Dunbar pursues Afrofuturism to reimagine the future in real-time, Cardozo’s Redesign will focus on financial independence with the infusion of business and finance entities in the school’s various academies. Overall, Redesign involves tailoring curricula to the specific needs of students in the school communities. 

Since February, D.C. Public Schools has collaborated with XQ Institute, an organization dedicated to rethinking the high school experience. They have facilitated meetings to determine the greatest needs of each school community and identify opportunities to enhance the curricula to meet students’ college and career needs. 

Last summer, experts from the K-12, university, civic, business, and philanthropic sectors evaluated redesign applications from Dunbar and Cardozo, Coolidge High School, Columbia Heights Education Campus in Northwest, and Ron Brown College Preparatory High School and H.D. Woodson High School in Northeast. 

During the implementation phase, Dunbar and Cardozo will continue to receive monetary support and tools that will allow each school to carry out the Redesign autonomously. 

“We will be given the resources to bring our bold design to life — an Afrofuturistic learning opportunity with the metaverse [where] students use their voice to make changes in their community,” said Nubia Gerima, director of Dunbar’s Redesign. 

“You can expect the whole Dunbar community to rally around this design and implement aspects,” she added. “You may see teachers looking at how they can leverage immersive technology and our city as a classroom.” 

In 2019, Anacostia High School and Ballou High School, located in Southeast, participated in a redesign exclusively facilitated by DCPS. As students, teachers, and others navigated the process throughout the pandemic, students at Dunbar and other schools continued to contemplate how to take the quality of their education to the next level.  

That’s why Nadine Smith, Dunbar’s principal, welcomed the chance to engage students, teachers, and community members in discussions about the future of their beloved school. 

Even though Dunbar, a District public school with a rich legacy, implemented cultural and career-centered academic programming over the last few years, Smith described the DC-XQ Redesign as a step in combining and accentuating those efforts. 

“We’re implementing what students have been telling us,” Smith said. 

“The work we’re about to undertake has so many components. It starts with believing in the importance of our students understanding the greatness of where they come from and the possibilities of their future. This is the liberation work we educators have whispered about.”

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Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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