The little Community Partnership School (CPS), with just under 100 students in grades pre-K through 5, is famous for sending students from its low-income community to top schools around Philadelphia. But that hasn’t stopped CPS faculty from looking for ways to better serve their students.
And that’s where the story exchange came in. CPS counselor Eliza Taylor, who first reached out to Narrative 4, explained, “We’re in North Philadelphia in one of the two poorest zip codes in the city.” CPS students – who are all of color – were particularly shaken by repeated news of police violence around the country. Eliza, along with CPS Head of School Eric Jones and Director of Curriculum and Instruction Beth Vaccaro, all felt the story exchange offered a way to strengthen connections within the school community in difficult times.
N4 Director of Global Programs Lee Keylock spent a day at CPS last month, leading faculty and staff through their first story exchange. Eliza recalled, “I was delighted by how open our staff members were to really going deep . . . I think it helped our staff connect even more deeply – we’re a small staff at a small school.”
Adding to the success of the training: Keylock was assisted by Ishara Hall, a graduate of CPS who had been trained in the story exchange at her high school, Springside Chestnut Hill, outside Philadelphia.
“She was fantastic,” said Eliza. “A wonderful ambassador for the work Narrative 4 does.”
CPS has wasted no time integrating the story exchange into the school’s culture and curriculum. Among the plans: second grade girls and boys exchanging stories about gender roles, fourth graders exchanging stories about home, fifth graders exchanging stories with local police, students nearing graduation exchanging stories with CPS alumni, and faculty and parents exchanging stories at parents’ night.
Taylor can’t wait for more. “When I connect to someone who ostensibly is different from me I get a jolt of energy. I think we’re wired for that.”
More from Narrative 4 around the globe:
3/14/17 – Empathy in Israel
3/7/17 – Student Leaders SCHout for Diversity
2/3/17 – Connecting at UConn