Testimonial of Brian Barish: Head Royce Middle School Principal
Why are you excited for Head Royce students to go to Camp Common Ground?
Today, kids know that race, socioeconomics, and gender are big issues. Especially in middle school, they’re eager to talk about it. Regardless of where they are politically, they just want to talk, share their stories. At Head Royce, we’ve brought up issues of privilege, and those are some of the richest discussions I have had in the classroom—and the kids drive those discussions. Having those discussions for an extended period of time is going to be really rewarding and important.
Do they need to these discussions with kids outside of Head Royce?
You need to have a wide swath of opinions and groups to make the discussion about privilege and social justice more real. Yes we have a diverse, eclectic group here, but if they see kids who don’t come to this school, those discussions will be much more engaging.
How will Head Royce students from privilege benefit from camp?
You need to make sure that the “privileged piece” is not a checklist item that you’re doing for a resume. It has to be more engrained in your being, who you are. Some of the best conferences I’ve been to I’ve had to check my ignorance. Ignorance is not a bad thing, it’s reflecting on what you don’t know. That’s uncomfortable, but it’s required.
But isn’t middle school hard enough as it is?
This is a pivotal moment in development, socially, emotionally, psychologically, academically, and it’s a tough time. But it’s the moment we need to have these discussions, because they are more open to being real. You can’t affect change or do this type of social justice work without being yourself, knowing yourself, and acknowledging your true identity.
Watch an interview with Kilian Betlach, Principal Elmhurst Community Prep Middle School to find out more about the power and potential of Camp Common Ground:
I wish you could meet Robert. Robert is an exceptional sixth-grader with exceptional social skills. He’s smart, a natural leader, and above all else, kind. If you were to meet Robert, you’d see a child with unlimited potential. A boy who could do anything he wants. But you’d also see the environment he lives in and the racial segregation that plagues his school and neighborhood.
More than anything else, Robert wants to be a change agent. Someone who can teach the world how to treat others with respect, kindness, and empathy.
That’s where you come in. Donate today to help Robert be the change he wants to see.
You can send Robert to a summer camp especially designed to disrupt racial and economic segregation. With your help, 30 youth leaders like Robert will convene this summer to attend Camp Common Ground and learn how to build relationships with youth not from their same background. They will acquire the leadership skills necessary to break down barriers in their schools and in their neighborhoods.
But they need your help. Your support will provide full tuition scholarships for six “Commoners” and partial scholarships for an additional 10.
The secret ingredient that will lead to integration is integration. Progress can only be made if people from different backgrounds come together to talk about their differences, about their attitudes toward one another, and even about the discomfort they may feel.
These conversations don’t happen by themselves. They need upstanders like you to lead the charge. Give the next generation a chance to lead our society to a place of tolerance, understanding, and empathy.