• Morse Insurance Community Spotlight: Raising Multicultural Kids

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By increasing racial and cultural competency in local communities through deep engagement with schools, educational experts, and residents, Raising Multicultural Kids (RMK) aims to ensure that every child sees themselves modeled in curriculum, in teachers, and in leadership roles.

For its latest community spotlight, Morse Insurance sat down with Kelly Ann Lamb, cofounder and president of RMK, to find out more about this nonprofit, which has grown significantly since it was established in July 2019. Kelly shared with us how RMK got its start, how its programs work, what its goals are for the future, and why multicultural programming matters. Morse, of course, is thrilled to support RMK and help it advance its community-based mission.

Q: How did Raising Multicultural Kids get its start?

A: My husband and I created our family through adoption. Two of our three daughters are mixed-race, and our youngest is Dominican. Shortly after the little one entered kindergarten in the Easton Public Schools, she experienced a racial incident that changed the way she viewed herself. Suddenly, she didn’t like having brown skin.

When we asked what would make her feel better at school, she said she wanted a Black teacher to come to her classroom so that everyone could stand in a circle and hold hands. She believed that would let her peers know that it was OK to be brown. At five years old, she innately understood that power of representation could change minds. So, working collaboratively with our daughter’s teacher, we arranged for a high school student from Easton to come to her classroom every Thursday to provide support. Because the high school student was planning to study early education in college, she benefited from the arrangement as well.

Sadly, it wasn’t long before our daughter experienced two more racial incidents, making us realize that we needed to do something on a larger scale. When I reached out to my social media network and recruited several families to participate in a conversation about what could be done to improve the situation, we discovered that every one of us had a child who had experienced a racial incident before the third grade.

Through these social media interactions, I ended up meeting Denise Barbosa Lane, the cofounder of RMK. Together, Denise and I learned that even though the schools and community wanted to help with the problem, they lacked the necessary resources to do so. We were motivated by this need to start a nonprofit with the goal of working within the schools to create real change in our community. Soon after, we kicked off our flagship program, Diversity and Classroom Leadership and Literature.

Q: How does the program work?

A: We recruit students of color in college who want to work with kids and place them in K-8 classroom settings. We call these college students “diversity leaders.” In October each year, diversity leaders receive 30 hours of curriculum training and then come into the classroom once a week from November through May, for a total of 20 weeks. In the classroom, they read books on multicultural topics to kids and then lead an activity to deepen the lesson. The books might be about race, culture, socioeconomic status, family structure, or people with different abilities. It’s all content showing the diversity that exists within the world.

Q: How do participants and partners benefit from Diversity and Classroom Leadership and Literature?

A: A Black student who has had a Black teacher by third grade is 13% more likely to go to college, and a Black student who has had two Black teachers by third grade is 30% more likely to go to college. So, it affects the academic trajectory of a child to have a leader who looks like them. It’s also important for white students to sit in classrooms led by people of color. We live in the most diverse world we have ever known, and kids have to understand how to navigate different cultures and foster cross-cultural relationships. In many suburban Massachusetts schools, the student body isn’t diverse enough for people to gain the cultural literacy that they need naturally, so these things must be taught.

Our diversity leaders benefit from the program because they get experience working with K-8 students and are paid for their time. We also engage a licensed teacher to observe them in the classroom and provide them with feedback at least twice throughout the year.

Teachers in the Easton schools ask to participate in our program. Not only do they see the value for their students, but they also view the experience as professional development for themselves. Through our program, they see new resources modeled in their classroom and can learn how to handle certain conversations and questions that they may not have received formal training on.

Finally, most university leaders see our program as a tremendous opportunity to engage their students with younger students in the community. When younger students see college students who look like them in their classroom, they get the idea that they can go to college, too—which, of course, creates a good pipeline for the universities.

Q: What other core programs does RMK offer?

A: We also offer a Virtual Bedtime Book Club. For this program, we’ve partnered with American Ninja Warriors, a reality TV show featuring men and women from all walks of life who challenge themselves to complete a difficult obstacle course. These volunteers and other readers join us online every Monday and Wednesday evening and read two books focused on multicultural experiences. The first story is geared toward an audience of three- to five-year-olds, and the second story is meant for kids between six and ten years old. After the readings, kids can ask questions. There are different readers every night, so the kids get to interact with a number of different people.

Our third and final core program is called Advocacy and Action. This program is for middle-school children and focuses on identity development. In addition to teaching them how to foster positive self-esteem, we talk to them about how people have different identities and how these identities can shape our worldview and life experiences. Then, we introduce ideas about advocacy work and talk to them about what they’d like to see happen in their own community. We don’t tell them what to advocate for; we just try to inspire and develop them so they can take action on the matters that are important to them.

Q: How do you engage with people in the community beyond your K-8 programming?

A: After the 2020 murder of George Floyd, the community showed a lot of interest in having conversations about race. Through our adult social club, we presented books, movies, podcasts, and guest speakers on this topic. Around this time, we also introduced the Youth Forum for high schoolers who were hurting. It was a particularly tough time for students here in Easton, because we had recently lost Danroy “DJ” Henry in a police shooting that occurred in Pleasantville, New York, where he was attending college. DJ had grown up in Easton and was a three-sport athlete. It was heartbreaking for the entire community. Through the Youth Forum, the students were able to create the DJ Henry Day at Oliver Ames High School, which is now an annual event during which students engage in a conversation around DJ and his life and legacy.

This past summer, we did a “One Book, One Town” community event, where we engaged adults and students in reading a single book called Listening Is an Act of Love: A Celebration of American Life from the StoryCorps Project. The book and the event were centered around everyday people telling a little bit about their life story. Sharing such a wide variety of human experiences in the world encourages people to approach each other with curiosity rather than judgment.

Q: Can you tell us about RMK’s vision for the future?

A: We have a vision where the diversity leaders emerging from our program are so well trained that schools are eager to hire them. We’d also like to create an online video-based learning module system where educators can get training and have access to multicultural lesson plans. These are things we’d like to accomplish over the next five or six years. We’d also like to expand into more school districts. Right now, we’re in Easton and Hull. We hope to be in Brockton as early as next year.

Q: How has working with Morse helped RMK achieve its goals?

A: When we started running our own programs and interacting with children, we realized we needed liability insurance. And because our diversity leaders were going into classrooms where they interacted with kids, we needed insurance to protect them as well. We had first heard of Morse from a community member who attended one of our fundraising events and told us how supportive Morse is of nonprofits. We had a feeling this would be a great partnership, which it has been. The team members at Morse are genuine and caring. I know that they truly believe in our mission and want to help us grow and achieve our goals in any way they can.

Morse is grateful to Kelly Ann Lamb for her time and, of course, encourages you to learn more about Raising Multicultural Kids. If you’d like to support this wonderful organization, there are opportunities to make a donation, sign up for RMK’s newsletter, and more. You can also stay up to date on RMK happenings throughout the year on Facebook.

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