A year into working at Cherokee Heights as the school’s Student Engagement Coordinator, Dionte Prewitt values the relationships he’s built with students and staff. Dionte especially enjoys his role in leading the school’s Black Student Voices group.
The group meets virtually each week to promote positive images in Black culture, to help students thrive academically and to reinforce the importance of feeling welcome and connected to the larger school community.
“Black Student Voices is all about helping students find their voice. It’s about bolstering our students and showing them examples of exceptional Black men and women from our past, present and the youth who represent our future,” says Dionte. “I share with them facts about Black people that they’ve never heard before and that schools may not be willing to teach them.”
While the Black Student Voices space is open to everyone, Dionte prioritizes inspirational quotes, major accomplishments and lesser known historical figures and facts all centered around Blackness, specifically Black people, voices, culture and experiences.
“At our weekly meetings, we spend 30 minutes on Black history and culture,” says Dionte. "The students are amazed when I show them that Black people invented paper, developed the alphabet, that a Black man, Mansa Musa, was the richest man in history. The students say, "WHAT?" in disbelief, and these are the things I like to introduce them to."
About ten students join the weekly circle. Dionte is hopeful that through word of mouth and staff encouragement, more students will join the space.
As a friendly incentive, Dionte holds a weekly drawing where one student who attends the circle and participates in discussions can win a pizza that Dionte personally delivers to the student’s home every Thursday.
Dionte has full support from the school’s principal, Dr. Anu Ebbe, and his fellow colleagues when it comes to holding a space for Black youth to laugh, grow and learn with each other. He believes the Cherokee Heights school community will continue to acknowledge the importance of groups like Black Student Voices and continue to support their purpose.
“I love coming together as a community with these students and spreading positivity to counter all of the negative images they see in the news and on social media about us,” says Dionte. “Students in BSV find a supportive community in this group, and that’s something every student needs.”
- Marlita Bevenue, MMSD Communications