Family History Day is an amazing opportunity for kids to discuss their heritage with their classmates. Most of the time.
Michelle Morales still chokes up when she thinks of how heartbroken she felt when she came to school eager to teach her class about her Puerto Rican ties to Taíno Native Americans and was met with opposition. Her teacher insisted that her ties to indigenous culture were not real.
“That sticks with me,” Morales says, “because in that moment, a history that I should have been proud of was erased.”
Watch her tell her story:
“My culture, my history, was never taught,” Morales says. And unfortunately, she’s not alone.
It’s been said that history is written by the victors, and for minority students, that means their history is often not written at all. History textbooks focus on American history as told by white Anglo-Saxon men, leading kids of color to believe they have no place in the country’s narrative.
When kids don’t see themselves reflected in American history, it becomes more difficult to picture themselves in America’s future. To empower a diverse generation of future leaders, we need youth of color to be represented and included.
Morales is on a mission to make sure kids of color don’t repeat her past experiences.
As the executive officer of Mikva Challenge in Chicago, Morales helps design and implement programs that get kids engaged in making social change early on.
“Youth of color do not see themselves in the larger political structure and the larger narrative of the American story,” she says. “We want youth to know that they are important to the change of our society.”
Through Mikva, young people are given the opportunity to become civically engaged and see for themselves that they have the potential to make positive change.
Mikva teaches kids about policymaking, electoral engagement, and community problem-solving through hands-on projects. The program was founded as an all-volunteer civic engagement project and named after former White House counsel, judge, and U.S. congressman Abner Mikva and his activist wife Zoe.
Now, Mivka is a more than 6,000-student program, working to educate a generation of young people about their nation’s politics.
It not only prepares them for lives of civic engagement as adults, but it shows them that there’s no need to wait until they’re older to get started on projects they care about.
Mikva has already affected over 10,000 youth in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.
But its message isn’t limited to any geographical location. The “Mikva model,” as it’s called, “assumes that young people deserve a voice in our democratic process, and it challenges educators and public officials to invite, and meaningfully include, youth in civic decision-making.”
That’s an initiative that every organization can — and should — implement.
As for Morales, she’s focused on making the future better for the kids who come after her. “I do this for them,” she says. “I do this to make things better for them. I don’t want them to go through what I have gone through and what other people of color have gone through.”
Learn more at XQSuperSchool.org.