By Kathy Chouteau
Richmond nonprofit, The Practice Space, has received significant funding from the NewSchools Venture Fund, enabling it to expand its speech and debate curriculum for high school students who are English learners.
The funding opportunity will see the Richmond nonprofit join NewSchool’s Learning Solutions cohort, consisting of national innovators developing breakthrough learning solutions to improve equity in education, per the organization. The Practice Space said it will launch and expand a full-year, project-based, speech and debate curriculum, as well as teacher coaching services, in support of high school English learners.
The organization’s project work will kick off at Kennedy High School, continue in the WCCUSD and will also reach additional Bay Area school districts, said representatives.
Founder of The Practice Space AnnMarie Baines said that English learners often feel like imposters in today’s high schools and that the nonprofit is deeply honored to work alongside incredible educators “to provide more oral literacy opportunities and culturally-affirming experiences that honor their voices.”
Kennedy High School teacher Zach Porter, who piloted the program, attested to its impact by sharing that the project-based approach helped his students progress from whispering at desk level to wanting to make their podcasts public. “The authenticity really helped student engagement,” he said.
The Practice Space has provided after-school speech and debate programs to students in grades K-12 since 2017. The nonprofit said this latest program aligns with its own growth plan to support students during the school year via curriculum and coaching for teachers, as well as expanding its after-school programs.
A nonprofit partner and WCCUSD administrator, Mary Ann Lafosse, expressed that public speaking provides an inclusive space to build equity and joy for all students, particularly those who are under-heard.
The Practice Space said it will not only benefit from NewSchools’ financial support, but also its expertise, resources and network. It added that the partnership will enable the organization to add a senior team member and additional high schools and districts to join their cohort to advance youth voices.