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What’s Culture Got to Do With It? Taking a Student Perspective Part 3

Thank you for once again coming back to continue our journey together!

Learning through action is a special place. 

Learning through action allows for embodied learning. 

Learning through action encourages self-reflection.

Learning through action builds community.

Learning through action allows us to explore places we never knew we were capable of exploring….

As students, we often fall into the trap of not thinking that we have a voice or something to offer. And yet, we have much to offer. Our voices are valuable, and our experiences are valuable. 

As mentioned in a previous post, I noticed gaps at my university. It raised concerns, and I had no place to take those concerns except to a couple of people who would listen but had no power to help make systemic change. However, they did support the power of the student voice and provided tools to help. My learning through action began through club leadership. I took on the role of President of one of the clubs and the Secretary for another organization. Through these roles, I learned more about the university system and found ways to start bridging gaps between student clubs so that there would be communication and connection. It would take all of us to make the spaces more accessible and inclusive.

As my school is virtual, there was a subtle change happening within the virtual spaces. These bridges we built allowed the clubs and students to learn that we had much to offer each other and the school system. From these humble beginnings, the seeds were sown for the beginning of the student-led social justice initiative. 

You might be surprised when you reach out to others to see if they are interested in helping support a project. It can be a vulnerable space to put yourself out there and search for others who are determined to make lasting systemic change. Yet, that risk has rewards if done with an awareness that some will rise to the occasion while others will try to dissuade you. One of the learnings was to check my assumptions about who would join this project. People I did not know reached out and showed up because they cared about others they had not met. Given the nature of my school, there is a great deal of isolation and little opportunity to meet others, so it takes a unique understanding of what community means and what it means to be of service.

The other highlight I wish to share with you is my choice to reach out to the president of a university. I was still determining if the president would return or read my email, so I took that step. I drafted an email asking if they would be willing to meet to discuss concerns about the lack of cultural awareness within the system and the curriculum with a student or group of students. I did not hear back for a while, and it took a few follow-ups, but I finally received a response about joining a roundtable. In preparation for the roundtable, the President asked me to draft an email of my concerns, which I did with twelve points of concern. I put time and effort into this email because I wanted to ensure that these concerns were heard. I raised some concerns at the roundtable, but not all, because I wanted to ensure that other students had time to share. Ultimately, while the roundtable did go well, no matter the follow-up on my part, there was no follow-up about what I shared in my email or what was said in the roundtable. Additionally, there needed to be more support in even engaging in the student-led social justice initiative. While this was disheartening, it was not the end but a reminder of why student voices are important and needed. They need to continue to speak out and advocate for those who do not have a space to speak out or feel safe.

Learning through action may take work.

Learning through action can drive us to continue our work.

Learning through action invites us to use our voices to make systemic change.

In the next post, I hope to share more about what it meant to me to join the CRESTSprogram team.

What’s Next?

While this post covered a couple of stories of my learning through action, there is so much more that I could have shared. However, it is your turn to reflect on how you have learned through action and can learn through action to bring awareness to culture-centered trauma-informed approaches. Write down a few of your experiences and some of the lessons you have learned. In doing so, I hope you will remember that you, as a student, have a valuable voice.

Until next time!

Practical Tips and Suggestions

Look for opportunities to start student-led projects. If there are no current opportunities, consider creating one and finding others who are interested in joining you.

Do not give up! Yes, continuing to use your voice when others are not listening can be draining and disheartening. Find those you can trust and work with, and use each other for support. Continue to engage in enduring safe care to sustain yourself for the long term. Your voice matters!

Additional Resources

Academic Papers


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