Freshman students at Chula Vista High school began a 10 week curriculum on Oct.19 that teaches restorative and social justice principles through the Tariq Khamisa Foundation (TKF).
The Sweetwater Union High School District’s partnership with TKF aims to educate and motivate students in learning restorative practices with programs centring around community service and mentoring.
According to SUHSD, this approach reduces negative behavior such as violence, delinquency, school truancy and gang involvement by allowing open communication that leads to healthier decisions and positive problem solving.
Chula Vista High School principal Julio Acala previously worked with TKF at Chula Vista Middle School in his time as principal. He said “students learn about forgiveness, empathy, working together and understanding differences through this character development program."
“We implemented that as a part of a restorative approach at the middle school. We saw kids understanding their actions had consequences and they affected others. Students were able to reflect. Especially when they did something that maybe they shouldn't have done. We were able to have those conversations and students learned their actions have consequences. There is always a victim no matter the situation. There is nothing that doesn't affect anybody. That was one of the major lessons” Acala said.
It all began in 1995 after a college student Tariq Khamisa was killed by a 14 year old gang member, Tony Hicks, who was tried as an adult and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Tariq’s father, Azim Khamisa partnered with Hick’s grandfather, Ples Feliz in the spirit of healing to end youth violence.
According to their website, TKF has connected with over 500,000 youth in communities across San Diego county since the foundation was established.
The lessons taught under TKF meet goal two under the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), which creates a safe and healthy learning environment for each student by building a culture of equity and a positive climate that promotes excellence district wide according to Acala.
Ninth grade students returning from school closures are a priority due to missing out on character development last year according to Acala. Some character development was administered through online platforms and social emotional learning programs in the district’s distance learning approach.
Facilitators come into classrooms to provide presentations and curriculum to work in tandem with regular classroom teachers. The classroom ranges anywhere between 20 and 30 students and facilitators present for each class period.
“They all have different stories themselves and that is a unique aspect of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation. They really are focusing on acceptance and working with everybody and being open to people who come from different walks of life so I definitely appreciate that from their foundation” Acala said.
Self assessments are conducted every year to determine the needs of students depending on population and reported issues seen in campuses.
“There are a lot of different programs out there. We chose Tariq Khamisa because we have worked with them in the past. We felt like it was a story that could really touch our students and make an impact” Acala said.