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Three New High Schools Receive Training to Form Unity Teams
(Hartford, CT) On December 11, three high schools from the Greater Hartford area, Farmington, Somers, and Granby, attended the first training for their newly formed Unity Teams. The brainchild of Steve Wessler, author of The Respectful School and former Director of the Center for Preventing Hate, Unity Teams bring attention to and strive to end bullying, teasing, harassment, and the use of degrading language. To be a member of a Unity Team, students must participate in the full-day training session created by Wessler.
The event was hosted by the Hartford Region Open Choice program and facilitated by CREC's Institute of Teaching & Learning at the CREC Two Rivers Magnet Middle School in East Hartford. New team members from established teams were also invited, including students from the districts of Rocky Hill, East Windsor, Cromwell, Enfield, and CREC.
The training consists of team-building exercises, cultural proficiency training, and action planning. Wessler’s training techniques ask students to be honest about their own experiences in relation to diversity and their observations of the experiences of their classmates. Students often share honest and challenging stories of what they face in their day to day experiences, but also share positive experiences they have had as well. “I now understand that unity is an important part of our lives and I shouldn’t judge people without getting to know them,” reflected a student from the Somers Unity Team.
The goal is to establish a baseline of what the reality is in their current schools and then to come to see themselves as agents of change in their ability to impact the climate and culture of their schools. A student from Farmington High School expressed how the Unity Team event informed her personal perspective: “Today I thought about how all this violence or difficult stuff happens between students, and some people or schools choose to ignore it. But it needs to be addressed, because if it isn’t, students will continue to struggle in our community.”
Following the training, teams are encouraged to design and lead special projects in their schools, sharing their learning and experiences with peers in order to promote a positive school climate for all students.
In Connecticut, each Unity Team consists of up to 10 students. Three of the students must participate in the Hartford Region Open Choice Program, which is a program that enables students from the city of Hartford to attend public suburban schools and students from the suburban towns to attend public schools in the city of Hartford. All schools participating in the Open Choice Program are eligible to participate. For more information about the Hartford Region Open Choice Program, please visit www.crec.org/choice.