JoAnna Schmidt, a chorus teacher at Strong Middle School, has started a racial justice group for local students called C.A.R.E. The Coginchaug Alliance for Racial Equity is open to sixth through 12th graders in the district, and has some 30 members.
“There’s a group in town full of community members committed to the same type of work, and when I saw that, I decided that we should have a school-based, student-led group and be student ambassadors,” Schmidt said.
C.A.R.E. was formed in response to incidents of racism and bullying which have occurred throughout the district. The group gives students a space to speak freely about such matters.
“I think everyone has instinct when something bad happens, to think how we can make things better and what we can do,” Schmidt said. “I’ve been a teacher in the district for 10 years now, and I believe in my students and the power of their voices.”
C.A.R.E. meets weekly, after school.
“My door is always open to the kids to give them a safe place,” Schmidt said.
Patrick Holden, co-chair of the Middlefield-Durham Racial Justice Team, appreciates Schmidt’s efforts. “I wish there was something like that when I was there,” he said.