My husband and I were disagreeing in the car about the best way to get somewhere and my 2nd-grader chimed in from the back seat: ‘Maybe, if you work together, you can figure out the best solution to your problem.’
This student and his parents, like thousands of other families in our network of intentionally diverse charter schools, actively chose to join our community. Our families believe that diversity makes us stronger, and that by working across lines of difference, we can come up with solutions to our most challenging problems. They live that belief every day when they bring their children to school, and their children’s school experience informs their family life as well. Knowing the challenges we adults face today, and anticipating the challenges our students will have to overcome in the future, we believe it is vital to build schools where children can engage with others from diverse backgrounds and learn how to work together—both inside and outside the classroom. We strive to graduate students who are prepared to live, work and lead in a complex global society that requires collaboration across many lines of difference. Since founding our first school in Hollywood, California, in 2010, thousands of families have opted in to our intentionally diverse school model. At CWC, our educational DNA not only includes a commitment to rigorous core academics, but also to social and emotional development and learning across lines of difference. We build schools in partnership with the community to bring together a diverse student population, which mirrors the neighborhood surrounding the school building. What we have discovered is that diverse schools are more likely to succeed when parents are building and learning alongside us.
In Kansas City, Families Bridge a Historic Divide
We need only to look to Kansas City, Missouri, to see an example of parents actively seeking out diverse school options like CWC. In 2013, a parent group known as the Midtown Community School Initiative in Kansas City sought to open a public school that reflected and embraced the diversity of their neighborhood. In their proposal, these parents shared their vision for the school:
Rather than seeking a school that accommodates one particular segment of society, the Initiative’s goal is to build a community school that reflects the socio-economic, racial and cultural diversity of our area, and that uses our diversity in a way that cultivates character and understanding in all of our children.
Five years later, Citizens of the World Kansas City is midway through its second year of operation, with 230 students in grades K-2. To build this school community, families in Kansas City have come together from both sides of Troost Avenue, a street that has historically divided the city both racially and socioeconomically.
[pullquote position="left"]They understand that learning is enhanced when the classroom incorporates and celebrates diverse perspectives. Ultimately, all that we do at CWC values children for who they are and for what they contribute today as they learn, grow and prepare to be a new generation of leaders for tomorrow—trailblazers ready to tackle the future challenges in our world. In the words of another parent, “I think that the most important idea behind [CWC] is that we are a community and that the children are learning to be a part of something larger than themselves.” Together, with our students, families and educators, we are building that community, one diverse perspective at a time.
Kriste Dragon is the CEO and Co-Founder of Citizens of the World Charter Schools, a national network of public charter schools that challenge students to realize their full potential and thrive in a diverse society. Citizens of the World is committed to serving diverse communities throughout the U.S. with schools currently in Los Angeles, New York and Kansas City.