November 2023 ACPS Partner and Volunteer Highlight: Kindred Communities
Family Engagement Month is a time to highlight the importance of embracing the diversity within our school community represented by our students and their families who hail from more than 119 countries and speak 124 languages. In an effort to invite families to join Alexandria City Public Schools' (ACPS) longstanding equity journey, the Office of Community Partnerships & Engagement partnered with Kindred Communities (Kindred) to facilitate a ten-session race and equity dialogue experience, bringing together a diverse group of ACPS family members and staff from across the division.
“We engage in brave conversations about issues of race and equity and our own identities,” Kindred’s Managing Director of National Programs Meredith Morelle said. She explained that these dialogues bring together school staff and families to help unearth assumptions and biases, center their shared humanity, recognize where inequities exist, identify priorities and advocate for solutions. “These open discussions build relationships and ultimately lead to collective action and community-led change,” Morelle added.
As part of the Family Engagement Blueprint Action Plan to integrate best practices for family engagement across the division, the Family And Community Engagement (FACE) team extended the Kindred Communities partnership to Charles Barrett Elementary School (Charles Barrett) during the 2022-23 academic year. This led to designing and implementing a three-part series of equity-focused Panda Community Conversations as a key strategy in the school’s family engagement plan. These sessions were held with Charles Barrett families to foster a space to share and learn about one another's backgrounds, needs and ideas for the school community. The conversations strived to create a shared vision of an equitable, inclusive and antiracist school community in which students, families and staff experience a sense of belonging and can thrive.
"Our partnership with Kindred and the ACPS family engagement team has empowered us as a school leadership team with the support and resources to strengthen our connection with families across our school's diverse backgrounds while also strengthening connections and deepening empathy among families,” Principal Brody said.
Kindred is also supporting Charles Barrett through a leadership team dialogue and action group, whose goals include:
- Developing a community of equity leaders driving equity work at the school.
- A deepening awareness of self and others.
- Growing racial literacy by exploring content together.
- Supporting the goals and design of Panda Community Conversation sessions.
- Identifying equity challenges to address.
Within this, the Charles Barrett community is addressing educational equity in our schools today. “This is a very big moment in our community and an unmistakable opportunity to bridge across our differences in order to support strong growth and achievement for all our students,” explained Principal Brody.
Charles Barrett is continuing its community conversations this school year with the first in a series set for Nov. 13, 2023. The talks will alternate between being conducted in Spanish and English to help center the experiences of the school’s multilingual families.
Kindred supports school communities in determining how inequities manifest, identifying the causes, and finding and implementing solutions. “The impact we’re seeking is removing barriers to opportunities and resources for students and families so that they can experience holistic growth and well-being,” Morelle said. ACPS Family Engagement Coordinator Avanda Williams-White added, “Kindred allowed us to come together to bring our challenges and concerns and create what we see as equity for our school division.”
- Partner & Volunteer Highlight