Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the history of the LifePrep program at College Prep?
TRINITY: Life Prep was born five years ago primarily out of the desire and feedback from students and recent alumni. They told us they felt really prepared for life after College Prep in terms of academics, but not so much in many other regards. The program started with the idea of helping junior and senior students learn “how to adult.” For example, classes last year focused on skill sets that many adults use regularly like money management, cooking, home repair, car repair, first aid/CPR, and self-defense.
Q: There have been some recent, major changes to LifePrep. What will students focus on this year?
TRINITY: This year LifePrep is focusing primarily on equity and inclusion work. We heard clear communications directly from our students and their families, from alumni, and from @BlackatCollegePrep, that both our student and adult community weren’t as culturally competent as we need them to be in order to create a safe community for everyone. LifePrep has shifted because we understand that cultural competency and anti-oppression work are essential life skills that we need to develop.
Q: College Prep is partnering with The Mosaic Project for LifePrep. Can you describe how the program works?
TRINITY: The Mosaic Project is a local, experiential education and equity and inclusion organization. Their goal is to give students hands-on experiences doing peace-making and anti-oppression work. All of our juniors and seniors will be doing the same curriculum, but they will do much of their individual and interpersonal work in small groups. In addition to the Mosaic instructors, we also have a dedicated group of six faculty and staff members, along with myself and Jeremiah Jackson, the Director of Equity and Inclusion, who work with our students to facilitate groups, evaluate the curriculum, learn, and do weekly facilitation training with Mosaic staff.
Q: Can you describe some of the conversations that have been happening in these first weeks of the program?
TRINITY: The first week students did anti-bias work, that is, looking at biases, how we develop them, and how to attack implicit biases and manage those in ourselves. They also did work around stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination. Last week we talked about something called “subtle acts of exclusion,” which is the term that Mosaic uses in place of microaggressions. We discussed the problem with the word “micro” as not being that strong or that big of a thing, and “aggression” implying an intent that's negative. Often things that we think of as microaggressions are accidental, where people’s intentions are good. Hearing that you may have committed a microaggression might make you more defensive as opposed to hearing instead that you were being exclusionary. Students talked about subtle acts of exclusion and how those messages can communicate that someone is a curiosity—like touching someone’s hair—that they don't belong, or that they are different or invisible from the rest of this group.
Q: Can you give some specific examples of the type of hands-on, anti-oppression work that students are doing?
TRINITY: We’re in week three now and students are doing a lot of work around assertiveness, assertive communication, and how to actually intervene when you see something exclusionary happen. Students will get a chance to role play, to consider different scenarios, and to think about what they would do. They’ll role play actually stepping in and communicating assertively about what was done, what harm may have been done, and how to address it. While discussion spaces are great, it actually takes practice to build up these skills to do it right in the moment when it might feel shocking, disappointing, or confusing. This program is helping us practice moving from a theoretical space to actually building up the right muscles.
Q: How did you come to choose The Mosaic Project as a partner?
TRINITY: We looked at several different organizations before we chose Mosaic, some local, some further away since we knew we would be online this year, but I liked that this group was local, so that when we do move to in-person learning again, we can continue to work with them. I loved their flexibility and that within their list of topics we have the ability to shift or add to them. What drew me most into working with them however was their demonstrated success with experiential learning. At its core, LifePrep has always been an experiential learning program, where students not only learn about essential skills but get experience developing them through practice. The Mosaic Project knows how to move students from theory to action and that was really appealing.
Q: What kind of feedback have you gotten from students?
TRINITY: First, we surveyed students at the start of the semester, asking them what topics we most needed to cover, what strengths our school has in relation to equity and inclusion, and what barriers exist to making the change we need. A lot of our weekly curriculum was formed in response to that initial data. We're also really interested in hearing from students every week. They have to do a weekly exit ticket as their only homework and they give us feedback on three things: something that they learned, something that they're excited to learn more about, and a question that they still have. I find that students have been really honest about places that felt uncomfortable or about things where they felt we didn't go deep enough. As a faculty we talk about how we’re going to build intimacy and familiarity with each other to have these deep conversations over Zoom, and how to create structure around that. We’re learning a lot from students and their perspectives in the process, and while it’s certainly not perfect, we will continue to shift the plan slightly every week or add to it to make sure it feels right.
Q: When you think about the future of the LifePrep program, what are you most excited about?TRINITY: The work we are doing with Mosaic is just one part of the future plans for LifePrep. Personally, I’m excited and really proud of the larger redesign work that has already begun with our LifePrep Redesign Taskforce. Right now, the program is only one semester for juniors and one semester for seniors. However, there is a Taskforce of students, faculty, and staff who are simultaneously working to create a more robust, year-long LifePrep program that we’ll launch next fall. Both of our programs for 9th and 10th grade students, Connections and Advisory Program (CAP) and our Wellness and Decision Making (WDM) program, are already year-long experiences. Now that we’ve shifted the focus of LifePrep, this work cannot be done well in just 10 weeks. The hope is that the culmination of junior year ends in doing some sort of activism or community engagement project within our school community. Senior year would then focus on a community engagement and service-learning project with community partners in Oakland. Both CAP and WDM are upping their anti-bias and equity and inclusion work, but for me, the long-term goal would be to have our campus programming feel like it's building on itself, that it is somewhat sequential or interrelated in its goals. Ideally, this is a vision for all of our programs working together to create a larger, longer trajectory.