Post submitted by Kimmie Fink, Welcoming Schools Facilitator
In October of 2015, I was one of the fortunate few to attend the very first Welcoming Schools Facilitator Certification Program at HRC’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. As a veteran teacher of 13 years, I’m usually wary of attending yet another conference. And, as a new mom to a five-month-old at the time, I knew it would take something special to take me away from my baby. Welcoming Schools is just that: special.
I’ve always admired HRC; I’ve had the equality sticker on my Corolla for as long as I can remember, and was already familiar with the Welcoming Schools Project. As part of the Diversity Committee in my home district, I’d already met facilitators and learned about the Welcoming Schools approach. I was immediately drawn to its messages of kindness and inclusivity and began using the project’s materials and resources in my own classroom. At our first meeting, I even asked the facilitator, “How do I do what you do?”
I knew that by becoming a trainer myself, I would not only deepen my own understanding but be able to share it with others and, in doing so, positively impact the lives of children beyond my own classroom. So I packed my bags and my baby, and headed to D.C. (the little one did not attend the training, but did enjoy seeing the sights alongside her grandma; babysitter extraordinaire and exceptional human being).
It was genuinely awe-inspiring to be at the Human Rights Campaign surrounded by champions of equality like Ellen Kahn, the Director of the Children, Youth, and Families Program, and Vinnie Pompei, who organizes the annual Time to THRIVE Conference. Every day of the training I knew that we would be guided and supported by the amazing Welcoming Schools team.
During the training, we continuously engaged in productive dialogue, thought-provoking activities, and used Welcoming Schools lessons ourselves. We had opportunities to practice delivering the professional development modules and network with the other candidates; a diverse group of motivated allies, advocates, and agents of change from all over the nation. By the end of the week, we were divided into regional cohorts and assigned an Expert Trainer who mentored us in DC and back in our communities.
I left feeling utterly exhilarated and prepared to begin my work. But my training didn’t end when I left DC. In the year that followed my initial training, I continued to receive individualized assistance from my Expert Trainer. During my certification year, I have participated in:
- Monthly individual calls: This is my one-on-one time with my Expert Trainer. Each Expert Trainer has a wealth of experience and can provide clarification on modules, technical assistance, training tips, and overall moral support.
- Quarterly cohort calls: Every few months, I have the opportunity to check-in with my cohort to find out what others are doing around the country, give and receive feedback, and keep up to date on the latest Welcoming Schools news.
- Interactive webinars: Welcoming Schools is committed to staying current in terms of research, best practices, and the needs of students. Through the webinars, I have been trained in updates to the modules and new national laws and policies, among other pertinent topics.
If inclusivity, safety, and equity are important to you as an educator, please consider applying for this year’s program. It promises to be the beginning of an incredible journey which you certainly won’t regret.
To apply, click here. Please complete your application by Friday, January 20th.
HRC’s Welcoming Schools is the nation’s premier program dedicated to creating respectful and supportive elementary schools in embracing family diversity, creating LGBTQ-inclusive schools, preventing bias-based bullying, creating gender-expansive schools, and supporting transgender and non-binary students.