Cultural Wellness Center staff provide parent engagement, cultural education (such as African Drum and Dance, Rites of Passage, and Sports Science), educational navigation, and Elder coaching in four schools in the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood. In late 2017, school staff talked to our navigator about a second grader at Benjamin E. Mays Elementary who had been suspended from the bus for 4 days- for walking in the aisle and yelling- and was facing a possible year-long ban from the bus if her actions didn’t change.
The school-based Elder and Cultural Intensity Specialist responded. After consulting with the bus manager, the child’s mom, and the bus driver they immediately designed an intervention plan to set her up for success. Using culturally specific and age appropriate lessons- on the topics of Hotep (peace), history related to Rosa Parks and bus riding, and bus safety- along with a system to reward positive bus experiences and a “Bus Busy Bag” that included crayons, coloring sheets, and chapter books (she loves to read), the team worked closely with the child over the course of two months.
By February, the child was demonstrating her leadership abilities, having already taught three classmates what she was learning about being safe on the bus. When another child was having difficulty staying safe on the bus, the child and her friends met with him to talk about safety, teach him a bus safety song, and talk about what they had learned- this helped him understand how to stay safe on the bus.
Through support from Cultural Wellness Center’s navigation system, incorporation of African approaches to engagement, and creative non-punitive methods of encouraging change, this child received the positive attention, knowledge, and confidence to transform into a leader. She received the newly created Rosa Parks Bus Safety Award in a ceremony attended by the navigation team, Elders, and her family and she continues to model positive choices for her peers with only positive bus reports in the new school year.