Northeast High School (NEHS) is the largest public school in Philadelphia, is one of the most diverse high schools in the nation, serving over 3,000 students, with 56 languages spoken and 750 ESOL students. Due to limited school resources, these cultural divisions are largely left unaddressed and dedicated faculty and staff struggle to meet the needs of their growing ESOL population. This project began last year in response to Muslim female students expressing feelings of isolation from their peers and even teachers as a result of the political climate. The Muslim Girls Culture Club is open to students in the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program and girls who identify as Muslim or are interested in Muslim culture from a female perspective. This project creates a safe space for Muslim girls to openly talk about issues/concerns, connect with and mutually support their peers, and develop skills/tools the arts as a means for self-awareness, expression, community building, and collective empowerment. We will build off the work from last year by continuing to meet them twice a month to enhance their research, writing, creativity, critical thinking, and public speaking skills with program content focused on future goals and career path development, which we have started to do by exploring their own interests, passions, and hobbies and bringing in local Muslim female mentors for college applications. The girls will research successful women from their home countries, the US, other countries, and/or of Muslim affiliation to understand their challenges and accomplishments. We plan to invite local female artists and other professionals to lead arts workshops, motivational talks, and networking opportunities. Merging their interests, research, and arts skills, the girls will have opportunities to produce artwork that is reflective of themselves and the women they identify with. Their artwork will be shared publicly in various forums in and out of the school.
Funded by Philadelphia, PA (March 2017)