Things That Matter

CoolSpeak Is A Youth Organization Trying To Uplift Nuestra Gente By Giving Them Important Tools

As a community, it’s important we focus on making connections – it’s how we support one another and make sure that everyone’s voice is heard as loudly as possible. Our comunidad is all too often under attack and too many of us aren’t given the same opportunities and same encouragement as others.

That’s where CoolSpeak comes in to the picture. CoolSpeak is fueled by passion, the passion to spark inspiration and help people discover all they can achieve.

CoolSpeak is the youth engagement organization that is showing nuestra gente that every dream can be realized.

As a Latinx-led organization, CoolSpeak leverages the cool language kids speak to design and develop programs and events that build upon the traditional youth motivational speaking – while making sure the content speaks to minority and often forgotten communities.

These guys aren’t going into the country’s highest-rated schools and repeating the same content over and over. They’re visiting schools and students that will benefit the most from their powerful, authentic, and emotional stories – kids who can see themselves in the speakers.

Since 2009, CoolSpeak has visited thousands of middle schools, high schools and colleges in over 40 states, while serving over a million students. Beyond the students themselves, CoolSpeak works with and inspires parents and teachers from around the world.

So who are the visionaries behind this idea pushing kids to chase their dreams?

CoolSpeak actually started off as a graduate research project that impressed professors but didn’t go much further. Its two founders, Carlos Ojeda Jr. and Ernesto Mejia, were both then involved in the world of higher education and it wasn’t until the pair met in 2009 that CoolSpeak began to take shape.

At the time, Carlos was just 23 and admits that he “didn’t know shit” when it came to inspiration speaking. He had his story which he felt would really speak to young students but knew he needed to explore and get to know himself better. So he did just that.

As the two came together to form CoolSpeak, they had three objectives: inspire students, engage parents, and empower teachers. Since 2009, Carlos and Ernesto have worked tirelessly to make CoolSpeak the company that it is today.

For me, the biggest achievement in all of this is the group’s ability to get kids – and their parents – motivated and taking charge of their futures.

Credit: SaludAmerica / Instagram

I know growing up I had zero parent participation in my school work. And if my parents weren’t involved and basically making me do my homework or helping with reports, I wasn’t doing them. It was hard to stay motivated.

So the fact that this team doesn’t just get students and educators involved, but also works to engage parents is a huge deal. Our mamas and papas are often way too busy with their own jobs to be involved as they want to be – but CoolSpeak meets them at their level.

And many students are so empowered and moved by the speakers, they’ll go home and tell their parents, te amo mami. This gets parents wondering what is going on.

And the way they’re accomplishing this is some next level inspirational speaking.

CoolSpeak programs are designed to push the envelope of student engagement while ensuring that the material is highly interactive, full of energy and impactful. The company provides programs on various topics ranging from leadership development, diversity, college readiness and overcoming obstacles.

As an organization, CoolSpeak does literally zero marketing. As they say: the proof is in the pudding. It’s in the work they do and the results they help students achieve.

They help bring in motivational speakers who speak and look like the students – and who come from similar backgrounds. It’s important for them that the students/parents/educations see themselves in their team of speakers. From middle school aged kids all the way up to first year college students, CoolSpeak has 40 different programs across the U.S aimed at empowering vulnerable communities.

An example Ernesto pointed out during a recent interview, is they work to serve students with migrant parents who may be working in agriculture during the on-going crisis. Then helping set these students up with all they need to make it through their first year.

One of the keys to their success (and of the students) is their diverse team of speakers. They’re exceptionally skilled at sharing their unique stories and experiences. They’re truly transparent in what’s happened to them in their lives – they get brutal and gritty – they get naked with their soul.

And they’re looking to give back during this unprecedented health crisis.

In an interview with Carlos and Ernesto, the two shared they they plan to make a lot of the content they share available for free through this health crisis. They want to give back and help maintain some level of motivation and normalcy for the millions of students who are without their usual routines – often bored at home.

The team is already working on content related to the experience of Latinos and Covid-19, including poetry by Joaquin Zihuatanejo – a Slam Poetry world champion. Some examples of content that we might be looking forward to in the coming weeks could be:

  • Workshops to help parents be better at-home teachers
  • Tips for helping students develop leadership skills
  • Best practices for scholarship writing
  • How to write and reflect on whats’s going in students’ lives

Whether you’re an education professional, a parent, or even a student, CoolSpeak wants to hear from you.

Credit: @CoolSpeak / Twitter

The lasting impact that CoolSpeak continues to make on the world would not be possible if it was not for the incredible team members in the company and the visionary businesses who continue to support the dream of two passionate individuals who simply wished to provide transformative resources for students.

If you’re interested, get in touch with your school’s administrator directly via the team’s website or connect with them on social media. They’re always looking to give back and support the community that’s supported them.

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FIERCE Maestras Are Giving Newbie Teachers Career Advice And It’s Basically The Sweetest Thing

Fierce

FIERCE Maestras Are Giving Newbie Teachers Career Advice And It’s Basically The Sweetest Thing

Joe Raedle / Getty

No matter what experiences you’ve had as a student, hopefully you have had at least a handful of teachers who left good impressions on you. As a whole class of students from this year graduate and become teachers themselves, we wanted to ask veteran maestras for advice on how to continue the cycle of positivity.

In a recent post to our Instagram page we asked all our FIERCE maestras, what advice do they have for a new teacher and boy did they deliver!

Check out the replies below!

Stay nourished.

“Advice: eat during your break girl and practice self-care.” – la_misses_m

Take it easy.

“Take it one day at a time. At times you will doubt yourself but push through the all the challenges. Always remember why you are there, which is to teach your students. You got this!! Good luck!!” – erixcii

Make sure you’re feeding your relationships.

“Focus on relationships above everything. Relationships with your students and their families!”- allirousey

Don’t forget to build relationships with your students.

“Self-care and building relationships with your students and families!!” – jazzyfue

And definitely remember to trust yourself.

“I’m an SLP, but I would tell her to trust herself!! You got this! You know your kids and you talents!” – maryoso_moli

Self-care Sundays shall your temple.

“Practice Self-care and build relationships with students. Remember to always be kind to the janitors/grounds keepers/ clerical staff (they make our jobs easier). Consider keeping a scrap book or journal of sweet notes and emails that you can look through on the tough days. Always teach with your heart and with a growth mindset; never get complacent because our profession is ever changing and we will likely never have the exact same group of kiddos again. Keep learning from your coworkers (what to do and what not to do), from your students, insta teachers, workshops, and personal experience (make notes to yourself in your planner for next year). Being organized has saved me, even on the most hectic days. Always have a back up lesson available. Empathy is key! Take. Days. Off. I know lesson plans are time consuming, but your mental health is worth prioritizing.” – cmirene

Know it gets better over time.

“The first year may be hard, but it gets better and better every year.”- yulzzzz5

Don’t be a Yes Ma’am.

“Advice: learn to say no. You’ll be super compelled to go more than above and beyond because it’s all for the kids and as much as I ADORE AND LOVE my students just as I am sure you will you need some you time. I started being the only teacher at school functions and being stressed about helping my high schoolers have the best time that I was drowning. Love them but love yourself too! You deserve you time.” – del_ranita

Don’t be a shrinking violet.

“Don’t shrink yourself to make your whyte colleagues feel comfortable. Connect with other teachers of color and ask for/give support. Lead with love for your students. They should always come first.”- queenurbie

Be an authentic leader.

“My one piece of advice is to invest time in getting to know your students, their stories and be your authentic self with them. Kids love knowing that their teachers are people and are just like them.” – meerehyah@educatinglittleminds 

And finally, remember ya live and learn!

“I remember I used to always want to be “perfect” for them and would fear making mistakes or letting them see me when things wouldn’t go right. When a lesson didn’t work out as planned. I learned to let that go and to let them see me make mistakes. It is okay! And it is okay to admit it. They’ll appreciate it! Teaches them that we aren’t all perfect and we all make mistakes-it’s a part of life. Teach on and be You! They’ll love every piece of you.” – su_heeey

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A High School Athlete Is Refusing To Wear Robert E. Lee’s Name On Her Track Uniform

Things That Matter

A High School Athlete Is Refusing To Wear Robert E. Lee’s Name On Her Track Uniform

Chip Somodevilla / Getty

For much too long, Black and POC students across the country have been forced to attend education systems with the names of people celebrated for their historical acts of oppression against them. According to Education Week, at least 185 schools in the United States are named for men with ties to the Confederacy,

Trude Lamb, a Black teen and incoming high school sophomore, is just one of those students being forced to attend a university with a racist leader.

Recently, she’s decided enough is enough.

Lamb has won countless medals for her school Robert E. Lee High School’s cross country team.

In a recent letter to the school board, Lamb wrote that she would no longer wear the school’s jersey, which features the name “Tyler Lee.” Tyler stands for the Tyler Independent School District which is located in the city of Tyler, Texas. Lee stands for the school’s name, Robert E. Lee High School. According to Lamb, each victory she takes a photo for acts as a painful reminder that she is being forced to inadvertently support Robert E. Lee.

Lamb points out that while Tyler Lee might not be Lee’s full name, it’s “still his name,” Lamb said. “It’s just a shorter version of Robert E. Lee. It still reminds me of who he was,” Lamb told CNN in a recent interview.

Lee was a Confederate general who owned slaves and John Tyler, who was the tenth president of the United States, actively pushed to create the Southern Confederacy.

Lamb added that her school glorifies, Lee in their alma mater as well. The alma mater says “Robert E. Lee we raise our voice in praise of your name. May honor and glory e’er guide you to fame.”

“What has he done for him to be praised like that?” Lamb said of Lee.

According to CNN, in 2018, community members attempted to urge the school board to change the name of the high school.

Unfortunately, after no one seconded the motion during the school board meeting, it failed to pass. Now Lamb and other students are pledging not to wear Lee’s name for school events. A petition is calling the school to change its name and has over 10,000 signatures. Some have also called for the name of another school in the district to also be changed.

On Monday evening, protesters gathered outside the school district’s administration office demanding that the name to be changed.

The issue of the schools’ names change was not on the agenda but Lamb signed up to read her letter for it.

“I am from Ghana, Africa where slavery first began,” Lamb’s letter reads. “I have stood in the dungeons of the slave castle and seen the three-foot urine and feces stains on the walls where my brothers and sisters were kept. I’ve seen the tiny hole at the top of the ceiling where they would throw food into the captured souls.”

Lamb’s adopted mother, Laura Owens told CNN that if the school’s name isn’t changed before the school year begins she and other parents will look into filing a lawsuit for violation of civil rights.

Check out Lamb’s letter in full below:

I am one of you(r) true African and 1st generation African American students at REL. I am from Ghana, Africa where slavery first began. I came to America in 2014. I have stood in the dungeons of the slave castle and seen the three foot urine and feces stains on the walls where my brothers and sisters were kept. I’ve seen the tiny hole at the top of the ceiling where they would throw food in to the captured souls. I’ve walked through the “Gate of No Return” where over 12 million of my brothers and sisters were kidnapped never to return back to their home.

I have worked the very fields and fetched water for my family from the very places my people were kidnapped.I love and enjoy the sports I play at REL. I can’t be playing sports, supporting, and going to a school that was named after a person who was against my people right here in the United States. He owned slaves and didn’t believe people like me were 100% human let alone ever go to my very high school. I cannot bear and will no longer wear his name on my race jersey. I’m currently the fastest girl on your varsity cross country team. I held that place my 9th grade year and plan to do the same my 10th grade year.I don’t see a future of remembering a person who did nothing for our country and who didn’t care for me or my people. He continues to bring our city down.

As one of your black students, I’m respectfully asking you to take up the REL name change issue. Please vote to change the name, not to “Tyler LEE” but after someone who we can all be proud of. Using the excuse that it would be too expensive, is not okay. This town was built on the backs of my enslaved brothers and sisters. Do it in their memory and honor the future of their ancestors that are at REL.I hope you understand where I am coming from.

Sincerely

,Gertrude “Trude” A. Lamb

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