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Minority Student Achievement Network opens in Amherst Sept. 25

Teacher's desk in classroom

Teacher's desk in classroom

STUDENT CONFERENCE: Social justice educator Calvin Terrell of Social Centric a training and educational organization in Phoenix, Ariz., will kick off the Minority Student Achievement Network conference hosted by Amherst with a talk in the Amherst Regional High School auditorium Sept. 25. The presentation, which is open to the public, begins at 7 p.m.

Terrell, who works on peace and racial justice issues, spoke at last year’s conference in Arizona. The Amherst students who heard him speak called it “a life-changing experience,” according to Kimberly Stender, coordinator of community, partnerships and volunteers for the Amherst schools, who is helping to organize the event. “His approach and understanding of youth culture and how youth in our country can change the course of social justice was truly inspiring to the students,” Stender said.

The Minority Student Achievement Network, a consortium of students from 25 college towns across the country, is aimed at eliminating the achievement gap between students of color and white students. This is the first time Amherst, which is a charter member of the organization founded 14 years ago, has hosted the annual conference, which runs from Sept. 25 to Sept. 28.

About 250 students from 25 school districts are expected to attend the event, held chiefly on the University of Massachusetts campus, where students will stay in the campus hotel. Among the offerings are talks, workshops, tours of the five area campuses, a multicultural fair and a party.

“What’s really exciting is that never in the history of MSAN have kids had the chance to tour women’s colleges,” she said. “To think that we have Smith and Mount Holyoke, such prestigious institutions of higher leaning, right in our back yard, is very exciting.”

Rosa Clemente, a UMass graduate student whose expertise is social justice, the achievement gap and youth culture, will speak. Organizers have also invited first lady Michelle Obama and haven’t given up hope that she will come. The leaders of local colleges sent her a letter and students have written too, said Stender. “The fact that she hasn’t said no is a really good thing,” said School Superintendent Maria Geryk. “The door is still open.”

— DEBRA SCHERBAN

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