Most of us cringe when we think of spending a full day with Middle Schoolers, but not Vonda. She has always had a heart for adolescents and a passion for equality and equity. That combination has made this middle school science teacher a powerful force for change on her large urban middle school campus where she is educating her entire community on culture and the need for understanding one another.
Her dissertation research on the Relationship between an adolescents’ spirituality and their ability to cope with bullying and victimization has motivated her to step out in faith to make sure students, teachers and staff are aware of the need to embrace our differences. “All people need to feel included.”
Please tell us about what you consider to be one of the biggest impacts you are making/have made in one of your respective communities.
When asked about the positive impact she has had on her community Vonda immediately goes to the The Black Student Union. The Black Student Union is a club she established on her school campus that gives all students regardless of their ethnicity an opportunity to learn about African American culture. Students who attend this club and functions (school wide assemblies with guest speakers etc) come from all walks of life. During meetings and events they teach tolerance. At one club meeting they showed videos of the impact of children in civil rights movement. “It has been amazing to see connections that have been made by stepping out in faith and making sure we are all educated on culture.” The enhanced climate the BSU has created has given kids on campus an opportunity to have a voice. It lets them know that we are different yet still all the same. Vonda’s school is named after Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and she feels that this club and what they are doing on campus reinforces his dream.
What have you learned about the diverse needs of this community?
“The Social emotional learning needs of kids have to be met or the consequences are dire. When these needs are not met in adolescence it can lead to depression and anxiety that carries over into adulthood.” This is not a new revelation to Vonda, who has been working with middle schoolers for most of her teaching career, however her research affirmed this and underscored the importance of finding a way on her campus to meet those needs.
How was your research/study as part of CUI’s EDD program helped you address the needs of this community?
When Vonda talks about her dissertation she lights up! Her study was on the relationship between an adolescent’s spiritually and ability to cope with bullying and victimization. What jumped out at her during her intimate interviews with her participants was their ability to forgive. “Forgiveness opens up a floodgate of abundance in your life!” Vonda says she grew up in a church preaching brimstone and fire, and thought God was mad all the time. This was an eyeopener for her to see kids today feel so comfortable in their faith.
Through her coursework, her research for her lit review and theoretical framework and her own research with her participants she learned the importance of not just teaching the content and academics but of addressing students' cognitive learning needs. Through the research she also saw the importance of the equity piece. “We need to learn about each other. “
How have you used your research or experience to develop strategies to meet these needs?
Vonda was motivated by her research to do more. “I really saw the significance of us learning about each other and embracing our differences. Once we do, we tend not to be judgmental and have those bullying attributes,” says Vonda. The Black student union was started before the dissertation, and has always been a passion of hers, but her work at CUI helped push her to use the Black Student Union as a vehicle share this message and educate her entire school community.
But her work and message isn’t just for her students. Vonda’s work has raised awareness in her principal, and together they have attended two equity conferences and have had some dialogue about inclusiveness. “This goes back to my work on bullying. All people need to feel included.”
How has your involvement with this community impacted other areas of your life?
Vonda has always fought for equality and equity, but she is much vocal and conscientious now that she has brought the need for equity into everything she does. Working with this community and doing this research has motivated her to get started educating people about all cultures, helping them to be aware of the need to embrace our differences. “It is important that kids get together and realize that they are not alone and that they have a support system. All people need to feel included.”
Vonda, your CUI family couldn’t agree more and we are grateful for your ability to step out in faith to do this work!
Additional responses from Pre-Interview Survey
In what ways, if any, has the Ed.D. program enhanced your ability to assess and develop positions/programs/interventions to respond to the needs of this community?
The program has helped me have a global perspective of the needs of communities. I have established an organization on my school campus to give students a voice and to embrace diversity on campus. Community leaders have been invited to campus to inspire students to reach their highest potential.