Lola (Left); Ryan (Center); Ms. Ashia Caraway (Right)
In October 2021, eighth-grader Lola, ninth-grader Ryan, and eighth-grade humanities teacher Ms. Ashia Caraway presented at the 2021 EL Education National Conference and Virtual Summit.
They led a session focused on their after-school racial affinity group Melanin Magic and how educators and students can create their own. Groups like Melanin Magic are integral to the EL Education model because they provide students opportunities to explore topics important to them.
Affinity groups are formed based on identity, and aim to create safe spaces for people to share and learn. Ms. Caraway explained Melanin Magic was created to provide a safe space for Black and Latinx middle school girls at Capital City to share their experiences and build relationships with each other.
"It’s a place for them to come together and learn about their history," said Ms. Caraway. "I think it’s important to have groups like this so we can learn from each other and have a support group to help us with different situations."
The EL Education National Conference is held annually and brings together students, educators and EL Education community members from across the country. The conference this year was held virtually, and according to their website, more than 700 people attended in October.
"It made me feel good after that I had accomplished such a big thing because I didn’t even know how big it [the virtual summit] was," said Lola.
During the presentation Lola, Ryan and Ms. Caraway took turns talking about the group and demonstrating activities they did in Melanin Magic. These activities included the "I Love Myself Challenge," virtual vision boards and holding breakout rooms to have mini "Sista Circle" chats where participants discussed different questions.
All three presenters agreed they think the audience took away ideas they can use to begin their own affinity groups. They also provided a notecatcher with resources for those in attendance to use to shape their own affinity groups.
"It felt really great because I was one of the creators of Melanin Magic," said Ryan. "The way people responded to it, it felt like people were going to make their own groups. To think that I was one of the reasons people were going to go on and create groups where students felt included, it felt really good."