Rams Blitz: Student Leaders Become Diversity Inclusion Champions
Mar 23, 2015
For three years, the St. Louis Rams have teamed up with Diversity Awareness Partnership, CharacterPlus, and in addition this year, the Missouri National Guard, for a program titled Rams Blitz: Youth Working Together to Break through Boundaries. This program was created to empower student leaders in the St. Louis region to become champions of diversity and inclusion. The hope is that through their own experience in the program and the training provided these students can become agents of change in their peer groups, school community, families, neighborhoods and the St. Louis region at large.
The Rams Blitz program was modeled after a program the Cincinnati Reds provides to their community. After recognizing there is a great need to help the region grow and thrive by creating a more inclusive and aware next generation, the Rams created a similar program.
Rams Blitz pairs together two high schools from different racial, socioeconomic and geographical locations. This year the Rams paired together McCluer North High School and Lindbergh High School. Past participating high schools include Seckman Senior High and Parkway North, as well as Normandy and Affton.
The program builds upon itself over a course of five meetings spread out over the school year. Each day focuses on skills and building blocks that will evolve students into diversity inclusion champions. Curriculum includes character development, leadership and facilitation training to allow students to effectively dialogue and facilitate conversations, and education on the spectrum of diversity and inclusion. On the last day, the program concludes with in-depth diversity workshops where students delve into issues that revolve around race, sexual orientation, disability and religion. Once during the duration of the program, each school will host the other school on their campus. This further helps the growth of understanding and removes some of the fear about a student body that is vastly different than one’s own school.
Beyond arming the students with training and skills, the beauty of the program is shown through exposing these students to peers they may not normally interact with in a social setting. Students are able to recognize differences at the same time that they are learning about similarities that exist between the two schools. It is truly amazing to witness. On the first day when the two schools meet for the first time we witness those preexisting stereotypes, barriers and often negative thoughts melt away as students begin to realize, “Hey, they play basketball like me; they run track; they love to dance; they love ‘so-and-so’ band; and their favorite food is pizza, also.” That right there is the beauty – the friendships that no one would have ever thought could happen but they did happen in the most genuine and authentic way. From the continued interaction throughout the year, friendships are born. In the future, when these schools meet on the court or on the field, they will meet as friendly competitors and not as outsider-versus-outsider.
What I love most about the program is the students’ willingness to participate – the outcome of the program and what the students take away depends on their open communication, respect and trust. We delve into many sensitive and personal subjects with the students, but they meet these challenges head on. During each year of Rams Blitz, students have been open and willing to fully participate, which has provided three years of an enriching and inspiring program. We empower the students to become diversity inclusion champions and they fully embrace the opportunity. Through Rams Blitz, we are creating a more knowledgeable, understanding and aware group of student leaders that will be the future of this region. We only hope this is a program that will remain with them through the rest of their lives in their social, school and work environments.
Community Outreach and Player Involvement Manager, St. Louis Rams
The students of this year’s Rams Blitz program are taking part in a blog competition. After the schools meet for the last session at the end of March, one student’s blog post will be chosen and featured on the DAP blog page. Tune in to read this student’s reflection on their experience in the Rams Blitz program.
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