Thursday, January 26, 2012

Community Learning Exchange Advances Partnership on Lake Campus

This month, leadership from Mi Casa’s Youth & Family Development programs traveled to Texas to attend a Community Learning Exchange event to support community-building efforts among the three co-located schools on the Lake Middle School Campus.

Mi Casa’s Cody Buchanan (far right) and Karen Fox Elwell attended the event, along with Ryan Kockler (second from right), Principal of West Denver Prep – Lake Campus, and Ronaldo Ortiz (far left), Assistant Principal of Lake International School.

Community Learning Exchange (CLE) events are funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. CLE views communities and people as the most effective instructors and texts for learning and brings together community change agents to share actions, practices, ideas and outcomes with each other. They are held three times a year in communities across the country. The knowledge gained at the CLE events has been essential in Mi Casa’s efforts to build community between the three schools and many partners currently operating on the Lake Middle School Campus.

Lake is a turnaround school and home to a unique model including a charter school co-located with two public schools (one of which is being phased out). As a result, developing a shared vision for the Lake Campus and community has been a challenge. As one of the few organizations that serves students and families from each of the three co-located schools schools, Mi Casa is in a unique position to drive this work. Attending the recent CLE event in Texas with members of the administration from schools on the Lake Campus was a great opportunity to create a shared vision of community for the children and families at Lake.

The CLE experience in Texas was a great step forward in the efforts to build a shared community on the Lake Campus. In addition to strengthening the relationships with school leadership that are the basis of partnership, the conference offered an opportunity to create a shared vision for the Lake Community. The structure of the event allowed for open discussion of challenges and conflict in a safe way, and when the conference concluded the Lake team left with a vision for future collaboration and an action plan to get there.

Once back in Denver, Mi Casa staff and leadership from the co-located schools on the Lake Campus held the first of regularly scheduled “Shared Campus” meetings. The first meeting was highly productive and the group addressed several issues that have affected collaboration on the Lake Campus. Though much work remains to be done, there is consensus that to serve Lake families with high-quality educational and extracurricular activities, all the organizations operating on the campus must commit to strengthening and advancing collaborative efforts.

Mi Casa has learned a great deal from its years of work with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Leadership for Community Change project, which includes CLE events.

Here are a few of the guiding principles supported by Kellogg and implemented around the country to create positive social change:

Collective Leadership: Collective leadership relies on the strength of relationships with an emphasis on inclusion. Collective leadership is possible when the members of a group, motivated by a common purpose, build respectful relationships with each other and co-construct their shared purpose and work.

Gracious Space: Developing collective leadership for community change requires the capacity to build effective partnerships that operate from a place of caring, connection, and purpose. In order to cultivate these relationships, we need safe, supportive space where trust can grow. Gracious Space provides a container for deepening relationships and having challenging conversations.

Racial Equity: Anyone involved in work that seeks to make communities healthier, more just and inclusive is aware of the effects of racism. Many institutions do not serve people of color well or have been unable to undo the lingering effects of past practices. Carrying out social change in communities requires that we address racial equity.

Youth Engagement: Youth are commonly viewed by adults as future leaders. But some take a different view, believing that youth have important gifts and perspectives to offer now to improve our communities. Adults who partner with youth to work together on critical issues of communities can achieve greater progress.

Learn more about Mi Casa's work at

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