Join the Belonging Challenge
Think about a space where you feel like you belong. What does it feel like? How does that feeling impact the way you feel, learn, work, connect and live?
Now, what does it take to create a sense of belonging in schools and communities?
We know from research that students who feel a sense of belonging in school are more likely to engage deeply in learning, develop strong self esteem, build positive relationships with peers, and stay in school — carrying those benefits past graduation with positive effects on their happiness, health, and even life span. And every day, educators are doing incredible work to create a sense of belonging for young people so that they can thrive in every aspect of life.
Introducing the Belonging Challenge
Over the next few months, Sevenzo is bringing together students and educators across the country to find bright spots that work to create a sense of belonging and spread them to as many places as possible. We’ll do this in four ways:
- Engage students in a conversation about what it means to belong in school. We’re interviewing K-12 students to hear their perspectives on belonging — what it means to feel a sense of belonging in school, what it feels like when they don’t belong, and what educators can do to make a difference. We’re learning that relationships and safe spaces matter. Here’s what we’re hearing so far about what belonging means to students:
- Build a community of educators committed to fostering belonging. We’re hearing from educators in so many spaces that a sense of belonging is essential to learning, and we want to bring them under the same tent to deepen the conversation. We welcome classroom teachers as well as principals, support staff, and district administrators to join our community, because it takes all of you to create a sense of belonging for students. Our challenges platform, launching later this fall, is designed to be a space for meaningful conversation among this community of educators, a place to translate ideas into action.
- Find the bright spots in communities like yours. Around the country, students are starting the school year feeling like they are back in a place where they belong. We’re seeing bright spots everywhere: an educator giving positive messages to his students every day or connecting lessons to her students’ culture and lives, a principal replacing preschool suspensions with caring support or a summer enrichment program helping refugee and immigrants students start the school year with confidence. We think that we should highlight and celebrate what’s already working in classrooms, schools, and communities, and we want to hear what’s happening in your community.
- Spread what works to more places. We don’t believe there are cookie-cutter solutions in education, but we don’t have to start from scratch, either! We look for the core ingredients and process steps to understand what makes each bright spot work, creating flexible implementation recipes. Educators in our community will then bring those recipes to life in their own context through a community of likeminded peers, matching with educator mentors, and even micro-grants. Along the way, we’ll share what our community is learning about how the recipes evolve to light up new bright spots.
We want to know what you’re doing to create a sense of belonging for students — tell us about an educator, principal, support staff member or community organization that is doing an exceptional job of creating a sense of belonging for students.
Sevenzo means the communal effort that makes change possible. With your help, we can ensure that all students feel a sense of belonging in their schools and communities so that they can learn and thrive.
Masa Uzicanin is the Founder & Executive Director of Sevenzo, a new social impact organization based in Pittsburgh, PA.