Global Learners Initiative emphasizes the importance of an inclusive society


Senior Breezy Rusher challenges those around him with the following conundrum. According to him, if 9+1 is 10, 10+1 is 11, and 11+1 is 12, then 12+1 is 1. How does that work?

“In your head, you might first think it’s just math,” Breezy said. “But then, you might realize that I’m talking about time, and you realize that there’s a whole other version that you just didn’t recognize because you’re so used to this one way [of thinking]. It’s this concept called “Base 10, Base 12.” We do a lot of things in that realm [in GLI].”

In his third year of devoted dedication to Global Learners Initiative (GLI), Breezy has found himself considering several methods and alternative ways of thinking like the Base 10, Base 12 concept. GLI, led by advisors Vicki Felton and Jonathan Fisher, strives to emphasize the importance of a culturally inclusive society.

Since beginning her involvement with the GLI program in the 2014/15 school year, Felton’s desire to create an equitable environment for all has only been amplified. Recently, this drive led her to the district’s Institute of Healing Racism workshop in March. This institute echoes GLI’s initiatives, hoping to encourage positive agents of change and progress towards inclusivity.

“The Institute for Healing Racism challenges participants to explore and address the issues of race, racism, equity, and inclusion related to general society and specifically the FHPS community,” Felton said. “Participants and facilitators create a safe place where diverse views and experiences are shared and validated.”

Seniors with heightened, widespread involvement in GLI were invited to attend the event as well, even though the opportunity is normally afforded to district staff members. This year, the two-day training was attended by five FHC seniors, Breezy being one of them, and heightened their knowledge of issues surrounding racism and discrimination.

“One lady asked if ‘surviving’ is the best term for a person of color in the building,” Breezy said. “ ‘Do you really mean survive?’ she asked. We had to explain that it’s more than education when I, or another person of color, come here. It’s that they are having to “coat-switch” or put up a facade that’s different from the environment and the way you talk or the way you act at home.”

Unique experiences like this one demonstrate that the opportunities that GLI bestows upon students are priceless, and senior Gabby Hernandez echoes these thoughts in her fifth year with the organization. Ever since she was recruited for GLI in seventh grade, Gabby has held a vested interest in FHC’s program.

“This program is so beneficial to you and your everyday life because it teaches you about what’s outside of the ‘FHC Bubble,’ ” Gabby said. “It also helps you become a better listener and sympathizer, which will ultimately become beneficial tools in your adult life. I’ve learned cultural competency, gained a better understanding of others, and received lasting knowledge that I will use in the future.”

As seniors like Gabby and Breezy indeed do look towards the future, they begin to pass their extensive knowledge surrounding issues like inclusivity to younger generations. In specific, the club often frequents Ada Elementary, teaching students about the importance of using the right words in the right situation.

Breezy also expanded his influence by delivering a speech to the entire elementary school in February for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Discussing MLK’s legacy and the importance of the dominant ideals that GLI preaches, Breezy and the other members of GLI explained the salient concepts surrounding equality and rights.

“We were teaching them about equality vs. equity,” Breezy said. “Equality is good and all, but it’s not really the right way to go; you need equity. With equality, we started off at different heights, and if everyone is [treated] the same, we all end at different heights, just a little higher up. What we need is equity, so you give the person who’s really tall a small stool, give the medium person a medium stool, and the short person a tall stool, so they all end high together.”

At its heart, GLI’s mission is aligned with FHPS’s core values, most integrally in helping students achieve their potential and work towards meaningful and productive lives. In a world that is becoming increasingly globalized, Felton sees the importance of awareness now more than ever.

“This is important to me because this work is important,” Felton said. “It is important that everyone in our building feels welcome, respected, and like a valuable member of the community. We aren’t there yet, but it’s important that we keep working towards this goal even when the journey is long and difficult.”

As GLI continues to work into the future, the club strives to transform students into more equitable and inclusive learners who are able to see things from opposing points of view. Empathy and acceptance are vital ideals that this powerful club will continue diffusing through the halls.

“It’s a great way to get involved in the community,” Breezy said. “You get involved with people from different walks and expand your horizons. You learn different things, experience different things without looking back. It’s great for kids who want to know more, kids who want to just learn and seek knowledge.”