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BCHS Language Arts Department receives grant for racially inclusive materials

On August 10, the BCHS Language Arts Department received the Advancing Racial Equity Collection Grant, a $1,000 grant from The Indiana Humanities Council for books that address systemic racism, inequitable policing, and/or protest through a humanities lens. 

The Indiana Humanities Council received a grant of $135,000 from Lilly Endowment to distribute grants of $1,000 to at least 100 organizations to purchase racially inclusive materials. Keira Amstutz, president and CEO of Indiana Humanities, stated that the goal of the grant program is to, “…help Hoosiers think, read, and talk about racial injustice and systemic racism and to support libraries as key public humanities organizations in this work.” 

Kristi Billings, BCHS Choir Director and president of the Brown County Educators Association, received an email about the grant in April. She then informed BCHS Librarian, Brain Galm, and BCHS English teachers, Rebekah Bryan and Hillary Fry, of the grant, and together they assembled a list of books they wanted for their classroom libraries from the selection of books provided by Indiana Humanities. Billings then took that information along with a detailed plan as to how the Language Arts Department would utilize the funds and compiled it into the grant application. 

“I think that we are living in a time where a lot of these longstanding issues of social justice and equity are coming to the surface…” Billings stated, “It is important to provide our students with as many resources as possible to understand these issues, especially since we live in a community where a lot of these issues aren’t present themselves… students need to put these issues into context and see them through a lens other than their home experience or the news.” 

BCHS Language Arts teacher, Rebekah Bryan, stated that effective teaching and an inclusive classroom go hand-in-hand. “I want my students to change the world,” Bryan stated, “but we can’t change the world if we don’t know about it… Brown County is such a small part of the world. If that is all we are ever exposed to, how are we supposed to change the world?”

Bryan specifically asked for The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, as well as a few other titles for classroom literature circle sets. 

BCHS Librarians Brian Galm and Brandi Ireland are currently using the grant money to buy as many titles as they can for the BCHS library. Indiana Humanities provided a list of titles for organizations to choose from. “What I really like is that this is a list that was created by people from diverse communities,” Galm stated, “… Ms. Ireland and I are sorting through each title and trying to get as much as possible with the grant money.” Galm also mentioned that while most of the fiction titles are intended for high school students, they are written at a lower reading level. “This way, some of our kids who might have trouble with reading can still enjoy and appreciate these stories because they are written on a level that is more accessible.” 

The funds must be used by October 31, 2020. For more information about the Advancing Racial Equity Collection Development Grants and to view the list of materials, visit www.indianahumanities.org/racialequity

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