Asheville City Schools Foundation and REAP dedicated two protest murals from the summer of 2020 to Asheville High School student activists. Photo by Renato Rotollo

Asheville City Schools Foundation and REAP dedicated two protest murals from the summer of 2020 to Asheville High School student activists. Photo by Renato Rotollo

Asheville City Schools Foundation Mural Project

Asheville City Schools Foundation and REAP dedicated two protest murals from the summer of 2020 to Asheville High School student activists.

During the winter of 2020, Asheville High School students in the GRAD program began exploring the issues and events surrounding the September 1969 walkout at the then newly-integrated Asheville High.

Asheville City Schools Foundation and REAP dedicated two protest murals from the summer of 2020 to Asheville High School student activists.  Photo by Renato Rotollo
Asheville City Schools Foundation and REAP dedicated two protest murals from the summer of 2020 to Asheville High School student activists. Photo by Renato Rotollo

The GRAD program, based at AHS, serves 9th-12th grade students who have struggled to be successful with traditional school. A student-centered approach and schedule allows for innovation and non-traditional opportunities, including smaller class sizes and personalized education, helping students complete the credits needed to earn a North Carolina high school diploma.

Through the Asheville City Schools Foundation they received a TAPAS artist residency grant that allowed them to integrate arts and performance experience across curriculum lines. TAPAS (Teaching Artists Presenting in Asheville Schools) is a collaborative partnership between ACSF, LEAF in Schools and Streets, and UNC Asheville.

Students created interview questions for 1970-1973 alumni and began a vision board for a mural to honor past events as well as create more visibility for current students still fighting for visibility and equity 50 years later.

Although the TAPAS project and plans for the mural disintegrated when the pandemic hit, students Seth Bellamy and Miranda Williams were developing a student ambassador program, and they brought the idea of a Racial Equity Ambassador Program (REAP) to students attending the 2020 Me2We conference held at UNC Asheville. By August, over 100 students had been nominated by teachers, community leaders, and peers, resulting in a 25-student team of 9th-12th graders.

Seth Bellamy and Miranda Williams were recognized for their work on the campus and in the larger community. Photo by Renato Rotollo
Seth Bellamy and Miranda Williams were recognized for their work on the campus and in the larger community. Photo by Renato Rotollo

Those students worked with ACSF and The Equity Collaborative to determine six strategies for a more culturally responsive classroom experience, and ultimately delivered 10 professional development workshops to their teachers and staff at Asheville High and SILSA. The following year (2021-22), the second REAP cohort of 33 students continued their work, sharing the “AVL 6” strategies with other education levels: middle school teachers, other high schools through scenario practice, and working with UNCA students to create six “AVL 6” short videos to share with their peers. They also partnered with the YWCA to hold a Social Justice Challenge.

On June 1, 2022, the Asheville City Schools Foundation and REAP recognized over 50 years of Black student activism by dedicating two protest murals from the summer of 2020 to Black student activists from the classes of 1970-73 and to Bellamy and Williams for their steadfast commitment and countless hours of equity work on their campus and the larger community.

 

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