Words: Georgia Horton | Editor: Mohsin Mohi Ud Din
The importance of instilling students with the capability to explore topics they are passionate about has always been important for Henry Jake Foreman and his fellow teachers at NACA. Mr. Foreman, otherwise known as Jake, is a teacher at the Native American Community Academy (NACA), a designated Ashoka Changemaker School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Jake has always integrated changemaker values, such as empathy cultivation, relationship building, and leadership skills, into his classroom.
Jake recounts a moving class highlight this most recent school year about one of his students who made a short film titled, “The Journey Between Two Paths.” Darin, an 8th grader at NACA, focused on the topic of restorative justice, and delivered a powerful piece that ultimately changed the way NACA community looked at the topic.
To create the changemaker film, Jake pushed Darin to do research on the topic and conduct in-person interviews to explore the perspectives and knowledge of restorative justice in his community. In the process of creative enterprise, Darin began to exercise empathy, active listening, and leadership. Without having a videography class, he had to dedicate hours after school to complete the assignment.
The film follows a student that gets in trouble at school. Instead of the teacher instantly punishing the student, she reads an article from the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty that shares information regarding the high amount of suspension and expulsion rates amongst Native students. Because of this new information, the principal decides to go an alternative route as not to jeopardize the educational attainment of the student. The film intends to “Break the School-to-Prison pipeline through transformative justice and mentorship. After completion, the video was shown to teachers and school officials across the institution, and policy around restorative justice was discussed on an administrative level. All thanks to one student and a community of caring educators.
Each student has the potential to make a difference, change the status quo, and question stagnant practices that seem to be benefitting few. Jake sees that potential in each and every one of his students, and works to enable students to see that capability.
Not only does Jake expect changemaker qualities from his students, but he exercises changemaking as a teacher. Jake has recently launched his program: The Substance Abuse Prevention Office (S.A.P.O) which is a community based program to reduce substance abuse among student youth in the NACA community. Jake shares that:
“The Storytelling for Changemakers program (led by Ashoka Youth Venture and Start Empathy) sparked and supported the building of this SAPO story. Through one-on-one and online training, we were able to exercise the changemaker skills of empathy, collaboration, leadership, and communication with our students and have them take the lead in documenting our work to share with broader audiences. NACA is part of the Ashoka Changemaker Schools network through the Ashoka Start Empathy initiative and we hope to share and see more stories in our network. NACA were among the pilot schools of Youth Venture's 'Storytelling for Changemakers' program in 2016, and it has opened up doors for how to deepen changemaker identities at school, and how to be loud speakers to our community of what our changemaker community is up to!”
In the next five years, Jake hopes that he can start to assess the collective impact of changemaking in his school system and how that diffuses in the local community. As a believer that a school is a central ecosystem where positive change can spread through society, Jake is aware that NACA and other like minded schools in the #ChangemakerEd network are not just preparing students academically, but also encouraging empathy, creation and innovation.
NOTE: Jake is a changemaker educator who is also piloting Youth Venture and Start Empathy’s “Storytelling for Changemakers” program, which leverages the process of communications and storytelling as tools to activate peer to peer healing, empathy, and changemaker voices for community-impact.