Last month, Hopkins Public Schools hosted a robust conversation and panel discussion with Somali educators, students, parents, and organizers of the Somali Student Achievement in Minnesota report. The report details the background of Somalis in Minnesota, and makes recommendations for relevant school experience, multiple literacies, unbiased and diverse teachers, and engaged families.
“It helped us to become culturally competent in working with our Somali students,” said Stanley Brown, coordinator of Educational Equity and Inclusion. “Further, the panelists also gave us some helpful advice on classroom strategies and pedagogy in furthering the Somali achievement of our students.”
The panelists included Augsburg University student Leyla Sahal, Minneapolis Public Schools social worker Salma Hussein, and Minneapolis Public Schools counselor Said Garaad. The three panelists talked about their individual experiences in the school system as students and employees, and answered questions from audience members.
The panelists shared tips on how to increase Somali student achievement in school. Doing something as simple as knowing the student’s name and learning a word or two in their language could have an impact. “Learn a piece of their culture,” Hussein said.
“Show that you believe in them and they have potential,” Sahal said.
According to the panel, one barrier that exists is the lack of diverse representation in teachers and staff. The panelists agreed that having someone that looks like them can help eliminate barriers. Sahal remembers walking through the halls and seeing students of color. Their eyes would light up to see her because she looked like them and they would make a connection.
As part of its Great to World Class work, Hopkins has identified a need to hire more staff of color. Vigilant equity is one of the core values, and the District is working to create an even more inclusive environment that welcomes all students and families. Students are leading the charge in this work. Recently, HHS responds hosted a Fishbowl conversation on the topic of immigration.