Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington, Massachusetts began their work as an UP for Learning Youth and Adults Transforming Schools Together (YATST) team five years ago. A group of fourteen youth and four adults came to Vermont for the YATST Orientation, joining five other teams from Vermont and Massachusetts to learn about and experience the power and possibility of youth voice and agency, youth-adult partnership and Youth Participatory Action Research. In total, they built their own capacity to enact change in their school community. Krista Dalton (art teacher), Kristi Farina (principal), Jacob Schron (currently a senior), and Dahlia Logan (currently a senior) were part of that initial team and have remained leading voices in the work at Monument Mountain. As Krista likes to say, they worked over the course of several years to take youth-adult partnership and the YPAR process from a “club to a culture.”
In the current year, Monument Mountain has established a large Student Adult Advisory Board (SAAB) with representation from every teacher-student advisory. The group of about 60 youth and 10 adults is the culmination of the work the original YATST Team did to establish a foundation of youth voice and agency, youth-adult partnership and Youth Participatory Action Research. The SAAB launched in August 2022 bringing together a diverse and representative group of youth and adults. During those opening work sessions in the summer, the established voices who were part of the original YATST Team passed on their learning, raised up new voices and helped celebrate the progress. In November, the entire SAAB group met again for a two day retreat with UP for Learning facilitators at a summer camp in the community. Jacob, Dahlia, Krista, Anabelle, Bornly, Noellia, Keith, Max, and Hannah hosted a fantastic retreat with deep learning to support the work going forward and celebration for the journey and people that had led them to this point. The two days advanced the foundations of youth-adult partnership, YPAR and moved into committee visioning, and action planning towards change. Since then, they have met regularly as a full group and as five committees over the course of the school year.
The committees have completed amazing work over the course of this school year. The Academic Advancement Committee is working to build understanding of proficiency based learning within their school community and is also bringing an Arts and Ideas group back to their school. The Communications Committee is working to build awareness of the Student Square application that they created to accompany the Parent Square application previously created to make communication clearer and easier across stakeholders. They have also completed some projects around suggestion boxes, announcements, and a central hub for posters to streamline communication and create opportunities for more youth to connect with each other.The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee is working to develop more affinity spaces for students of color. They are also hosting a kiva panel at a staff meeting soon to build awareness of their committee and their projects. Lastly, they will be providing anti-racism work across advisories for the next two weeks. The Environmental Committee is working to build better composting and recycling practices in their cafeteria. The Wellness Committee is working to address mental health and physical health issues in the school community.
Looking forward to next year, a group of youth have proposed a Core SAAB Committee be created to create more connection and collaboration across committees. This Core SAAB Committee is currently in the process of being envisioned. The youth and adults collaborating on designing this team want full transparency with the entire 70 person SAAB. They are planning to facilitate a fishbowl conversation at the next full SAAB meeting to explain the rationale behind this new Core SAAB Committee and share how it might support the entire SAAB, and facilitate dialogue to build common understanding and refine the plan for the Core Committee.
Monument Mountain exemplifies how a sustained and ongoing collaboration with UP for Learning can help create transformative change. From their beginnings with a small YATST team to this huge team that has moved many dimensions of the work forward, Monument Mountain’s youth and adults have shown up as willing and engaged partners. It is exciting to envision where they will go next!
By Katie Ingraham and Harry Frank, Program Directors