Michael Minor and his 12-year-old daughter Lindsay will speak about an educational program to help South Orange/Maplewood (SOMA) youngsters become ethical citizens and leaders.
South Orange/Maplewood School District students need tools necessary in counteracting the daily exposure to literally thousands of negative influences and messaging through the media and their peer engagement. Research on the subject reveals that schools that introduce character education have fewer incidences of disciplinary referrals, suspensions and truancy. Studies further reveal that character education creates a more positive learning environment, increased attendance and significantly improved academic performance.
The disturbing events of 2017 have uncovered an unprecedented need to provide our SOMA transitioning elementary, middle and high schoolers an opportunity to develop the tools, language and agency necessary as they make that transition to leaders, to citizens… to SOMA Citizen.
“SOMA Citizens” is a comprehensive 6-month program where a selected, prepared group of SOMS elementary, middle and high school students engage each other around social justice, community service, teamwork, character building, celebration of difference and positive peer pressure. The goals of the program are to create a “student to student” engagement that creates connectedness, empowerment, positive, healthy, engaged student leaders, equipped and ready for the social emotional transitions through their academic, social and life experience.
Benefits of SOMA Citizens Program:
• Ethical and Responsible Leaders
• Care and Respect for “all” Peoples
• Harnessing the power of Forgiveness
• Restorative Practice
• Engaged Learning Environment
Michael Minor tells us, “Our family has lived in South Orange for over 15 years, during which time we have had the privilege of raising 3 incredibly different children, Lindsey Josephine, 12, Maximilian, 9, and Marshall, 7.
“At a relatively young age, Lindsey began displaying a particular agency around justice, feminism and equality. After two unsuccessful campaigns, one for 5th grade school president, it became apparent that Lindsey’s worldview would be defined by those ideals.
“She became aware in the 5th grade that some of her white colleagues appeared to have a better grasp of math then her black colleagues and decided to pull together a diverse group of girls to socialize while learning different math techniques from each other. The group was named the Determinants, and the experiment was a success. Through this experience, Lindsey decided to use this core team to create a second group, this group would advocate for issues affecting girls like bullying, social stigmatizing, preference, race and culture. RED, Ready to Empower Daughters was born. While Lindsey’s social and emotional transition to middle school was uneventful, she was often concerned by the difficulties some girls experienced trying to “fit in”, and was angered at how others, mainly girls but also boys treated each other. Saddened by this, one day she began a discussion about what she could do to help prepare girls for what to expect when making the transition from elementary to middle School. The final straw came when the incidents of racial hatred and bigotry began surfacing in our elementary and middle schools, she decided this was the moment to act. It was time for SOMA Citizens.
“Watching this, I was fascinated at the power of presence and commitment to purpose one individual could possess at such a young age and experience level. It forced me to rethink and redirect my purpose toward embracing more directly the ambitions and passions of my children.
“My Role: as father, community leader and volunteer for various town initiatives to include: Chair, SMS Unity Committee; President, SOMA Dems; Founding member, PARES; SO Community Relations Committee; SO District Leader; SO Democratic Committee; Board member, MSO Wrestling; Foundation Board, Essex County College; and Essex County Lead, Victory 2017 Gubernatorial Campaign.
“My role has been to pull together the community, administration, school, and professional assets to move Lindsey’s idea closer to a reality. In her words, “Dad, you can help me but you can't join, you’re not a girl.’”