Signing day: LHS seniors commit to be future educators

From left, Lincoln High seniors Nazo, Sofia, Janely, Asraa, Jeremiah and Ali smile at their signing ceremony in the LHS library. They made commitments to lead new generations of students as future educators. They are taking part in the new Project RAICES initiative, which has a goal of recruiting and developing a more diverse group of teachers.

Lifelong dreams are one step closer to becoming a reality for six Lincoln High School seniors this spring after they officially promised to continue their education towards a career in teaching.
Sofia, Nazo, Jeremiah, Janely, Asraa and Ali made commitments to lead new generations of students during a signing ceremony in Lincoln High’s library. The event was a milestone for the new Project RAICES initiative. The six seniors at Lincoln High will receive full-tuition scholarships to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and join 10 other seniors from Columbus, Schuyler, South Sioux City and Wakefield.
Asraa beamed as she talked about the importance of the scholarship prior to the ceremony. She wrote down in kindergarten that she wanted to someday become a teacher. This past summer, her work in the Community Learning Centers (CLC) program at Pershing Elementary School reinforced that goal.
“Honestly, I’m beyond excited,” Asraa said. “This is probably the biggest opportunity I’ve ever gotten. This is going to change my entire life and it’s really setting everything down for my future.”
Adan Martinez, an instructional coordinator at Lincoln High and a member of the school’s Reimagining Education 4 Liberation (R.E.4.L.) Club leadership team, told the audience he was happy to see the six Links choose the education field. He felt it was important to build a strong pipeline of future teachers today.
“We need to grow our own,” Martinez said. “We need to start with us.”
Project RAICES stands for Re-envisioning Action and Innovation through Community Collaborations for Equity across Systems. The three-year venture is a joint effort between the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Education and Human Sciences and the Center for Intercultural and Multilingual Advocacy at Kansas State University. The mission is to recruit and develop a more diverse group of teachers.
Asraa said it was essential to have teachers from a wide array of backgrounds leading classes at elementary, middle and high schools. She felt it would benefit students to see a multicultural mosaic of people in front of classrooms.
“I’ve never had a teacher look anything like me, or even closely represented me, so I think it’s important to have teachers that are like me,” Asraa said. “Being able to be a part of that journey where we are going to be able to actually put new teachers who look like me and any of my peers who are also getting this scholarship partway into the education world is such a huge step, because kids who look like me or look like any of my peers are going to be able to say, ‘Yes, I can do education’ as well.”
The first part of the project was developing Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) programs for students at each school district. Lincoln High’s R.E.4.L. Club provides members opportunities to explore education pathways. Students study various topics within the education field and come up with ways to help their schools and communities.
Martinez said Sofia, Nazo, Jeremiah, Janely, Asraa and Ali have impressed him with their enthusiasm and work ethic. He said that was a positive indication of things to come in their lives.
“You guys have been amazing to work with,” Martinez said.
A second aim of the YPAR phase of the project is to help students create mentor networks both inside their schools and across Nebraska. Asraa said she has seen this happen with the group of six Links.
“I’ve always known them, but I honestly never got connected to them at this level,” Asraa said. “Knowing I have a support system and people who are going to take the next steps throughout this is such a big help.”
Students will take part in a summer bridge program before their first semesters at UNL. They will join a learning community in the fall and will receive mentoring and advising support.
Project RAICES will feature many professional development opportunities for new teachers at each high school. They will also have chances to take graduate-level courses at UNL after they secure their first teaching jobs.
UNL faculty members in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education (TLTE) have worked with YPAR liaisons across Nebraska. They have helped students develop research projects about their individual schools.
TLTE Department Chair Loukia Sarroub told the audience she was looking forward to welcoming Sofia, Nazo, Jeremiah, Janely, Asraa and Ali to campus. She worked on academic research projects at Lincoln High from 2002-09 when she was an assistant and associate professor at UNL. She said LPS students like the new scholarship recipients have built a positive reputation in the college community for many years.
“I’m very proud of the fact you’ll be joining this dynamic scholarship,” Sarroub said.

Amanda Morales, an associate professor in the TLTE Department, was also enthusiastic about having the Links begin their UNL classes. She has watched many students become school and community leaders through their involvement with the program.

“We can’t wait for them to be on our campus,” Morales said.
Family, friends and teachers applauded as the six Links signed their names to scholarship letters. They then shared hugs, smiles and words of encouragement after the ceremony.
LHS Principal Mark Larson told UNL representatives he was proud to see the students launch their education careers. He said they would strengthen the teaching profession for many decades to come.
“We are passing along six of our best to you,” Larson said.
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Published: April 15, 2024, Updated: April 15, 2024