Middle school boot camp teaches kids social justice, overcoming hardship

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EAST FLATBUSH, Brooklyn — Jordan Thomas, 12, from East Flatbush, is like any other seventh grader.

His favorite subject is science and he wants to be a police officer one day.

Anwar Abdul-Rahman, Thomas’ principal, said some of the most important things students like Thomas need to learn in middle school is pushing through hardships, building positive relationships, and setting goals.

And that’s not always part of the curriculum, he said.

That’s where Jolisa Beavers comes in.

“We give them an opportunity and an outlet to talk about what is troubling them and maybe preventing them from engaging in a classroom,” says Beavers, the founder of 4ward Inclusion.

Beavers teaches a special leadership class once a week during school hours.

“She comes to to our school and teaches our students the dynamics of power. It’s is just great,” said Abdul-Rahman, principal at Explore Charter School.

Her target audience is middle school and high school students. The class focuses on helping students empower themselves and other students by understanding their identity and how they can show up in the world with confidence.

Beavers described her class as a boot camp for social injustice and cutting through stereotypes.

Alicia Caton, 13, says the class helped her feel more confident right away. Houssainatou Jalloh, also 13, is in eighth grade and said the program helped her feel confident about sharing her religion with classmates.

“I learned to be a better leader and feel confident in my religion. I have always been scared to tell the world what I have been through,” she said.

If you want more information about 4ward Inclusion, click here.

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