P.R.O. and Project Footsteps team up to discuss diversity

Megan Pavlik, staff writer

The youth-oriented non-profit organization Project Footsteps has teamed up with P.R.O. to bring a program to Benilde-St. Margaret’s. The students meet every week to discuss social issues and race in their daily lives.

Although Project Footsteps contacted Benilde-St. Margaret’s two years ago, it wasn’t until Mrs. Lidibette Rosado-Guzmán became diversity coordinator that they began a program at Benilde-St. Margaret’s. “I realized the students needed a new way of looking at the issues of diversity, not in a traditional way, but [more] informal,” said diversity coordinator Ms. Guzmán.

Project Footsteps offers multiple programs that usually last for 1 to 60 days, but they created a special program for Benilde-St. Margaret’s that is flexible due to the school’s changing schedule. “I think that it has been a very successful program. I have over 20 students who come every week from different backgrounds, and they are able to discuss and share all their points of view and learn from each other,” said Ms. Guzmán.

The organization comes to Benilde-St. Margaret’s to initiate discussion about the student’s experiences with race, class, and social issues in their daily lives. “[We get] folks of any age to dive into everything from race, class, poverty, homelessness, but not in a boring ‘let’s talk about the problems’ kind of way. Kids especially feel or are told [not to] talk about [issues] so they don’t offend someone, but if you never talk about it then you’re never going to know,” said leader of the Benilde-St. Margaret’s chapter of Project Footsteps, Mike Jackson.

Using activities like scavenger hunts to get the kids engaged and ending with discussion, the goal of Project Footsteps is to get the students involved in social issues. “[We work to] provide these environments where no one can imagine what the end conversation could be, they just find themselves in it. It’s all about getting young people to dive into what’s going on [socially], and how they are personally connected, and [then saying] this is how I’m going to take action,” said Jackson.

Project Footsteps was started five years ago by University of Minnesota college students Kyle Rucker and Mike Jackson. The organization’s office is located in Minnesota, but its programs spread nationally two years ago. “[Our goal is to] inspire, empower and prepare youth and communities to be change agents, social leaders, and volunteers,” said Jackson.

Project Footsteps has been involved at Benilde-St. Margaret’s since November. They meet every Thursday from 2:45 till 4 p.m., and anyone can come no matter their ethnic background. “It’s fun. You hang out with people you normally wouldn’t hang out with,” said ninth grade group member Dasia Davenport.