Youth and Family Summit Aims to Ignite Discussions on Race and Education

  • (Photo by Ross Mulhausen)

  • (Photo by Ross Mulhausen)

  • (Photo by Ross Mulhausen)

This weekend, more than 1,000 community youth and adults will gather together to discuss a four-letter word that has become sometimes taboo in local educational institutions: race.

The Youth and Family Summit, modeled after the 2010 event that attracted more than 700 middle and high school students to school – on a Saturday – re-ignites this year on a larger scale aimed at reaching a broadened cross-section of Tacoma.

The summit’s roots started in 2007 with a small student group at Mount Tahoma High School that grew year after year to integrate more students from schools across Tacoma to discuss the role race plays in education equity.

In 2010, the event was held in conjunction with University of Puget Sound’s national Race and Pedagogy national conference, bringing the wildly successful student summit to the forefront of the event.
This year, organizers hope to keep that momentum in growth going.

“Washington State is one of five states where the achievement gap is actually growing,” said Noah Prince, who led the early events at Mt Tahoma. Today, Prince co-chairs the multi-organization collaborative day with Aryanna Drakos from the REACH Center.

“It really is that old adage of ‘it takes a village.’ We want to motivate parents that aren’t traditionally engaged in this process… who may not know how to advocate for their own children’s education.

“We are wearing this on our sleeves…we’re talking about topics that are still ‘taboo’ with race, gender and equity issues, but there is a real desire for people to talk about this.”

The day will start with a breakfast and a group rally and keynote speakers Michael Benitez Jr., social justice activist, educator and scholar from Iowa State University, and Ed Taylor, vice provost and associate professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at University of Washington.

Following the opening events, youth and adults will break off into workshop sessions of their choice, allowing exploration and discussion of particular issues regarding race or education that they are most interested in.

There will be more than 20 workshops each for parents and youth to choose between, ranging from topics of youth violence to preparing for college.

At the end of the day, a cultural celebration and performances will bring the event to an end.

“It’s critical as a community that we all wrap our arms around our black and Latino students, number one, and support their education.

“If we’re not doing that, we’re creating a school to prison pipeline; that wastes tax payer dollars… not to mention human potential of those who could be solving cancer, sitting on our school boards, etcetera.”

The youth workshop component will build on the large-scale summit at Lincoln two years ago.

“We had really high energy in 2010 when we brought together 700 young people,” Drakos said. “We want it to be difficult conversations, but also be really fun.

“Overwhelmingly I heard that students were eager for the opportunity to talk about race, as it has become a taboo subject, especially in classrooms.”

The 2012 Youth and Family Summit is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is encouraged and can be done online at or Day-of registration begins at 8:30 a.m. April 28. Breakfast and lunch will be provided. Lincoln High School, 701 S. 37th St. from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.


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