$1,000 Pitch Fest Prize Winners
April 1, 2017, Diversity Talks took home the winning prize of the Highlander Blending and Personalized Learning Pitch Fest. They defeated competition during 2 rounds of pitches; crowd vote and judging.
During the first round, Student Facilitator & co-founder, Taliq Tillman gave a one minute pitch on why student-led professional development is needed from a student perspective. He gave insight on how students are already engaging in uncomfortable conversations but these conversations are not happening in the classroom when adults that don't reflect their identities.
Students and educators in public education are both experiencing the ramifications of the student-teacher diversity gap and the lack of culturally relevant pedagogy as racial disconnect is reflected in the courses offered in public education. Even though students of color make up 85 percent, their narratives and heritage haven’t been included in the curriculum, which focuses primarily on the dominant narrative of European and Western studies at the expense of other narratives that represent the identities of majority of the student population.
Students in Rhode Island are looking for a safe and conducive learning environment, a platform to be heard, empowerment, and a curriculum that is culturally and socially relevant. “I absolutely hate talking about women’s rights in a Catholic school with male teachers,” remarked Katie Freedman, a Rhode Island student. “Three-quarters of my religion teachers have been male and it’s so difficult to talk to them because they don’t understand."
Studies have shown that if educators reflect the identities of their students, they can establish a stronger community culture, leading to higher academic performance. However, that’s only part of the problem. In some cases, educators are willing to teach based on a culturally relevant pedagogy but lack the adequate training.
During the second round, Student Facilitator, & co-founder, Taiwo Demola, and CEO & co-founder, Kiara Butler , joined the stage and proposed a solution that addressed all of the above-Diversity Talks.