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Traditionally, the ability to wear skirts as part of their uniform has been an option available only to junior and senior DPPS scholars. But female scholars at Democracy Prep Harlem High, which is only comprised of ninth and tenth grades, have always wondered why they couldn’t wear skirts too, says Zaymira G, a tenth-grade scholar at DPHH.
After months of discussing the policy, Zaymira was driven to act when scholars received the opportunity to make proposals, she says.
“We didn’t know if it would actually be something that we would be able to change because it is a rule for all DP schools,” she says.
In addition to the skirt proposal, tenth-grade scholar, Lawrence C. proposed an idea for a dance club that would allow scholars to study and perform West African, Hip Hop, and Latino styles of dancing.
“I’ve grown up dancing, so when I got the opportunity to advocate for my school to have a dance club, I took it immediately,” he says. “I wanted to bring more opportunities for arts to our campus.” -Lawrence
Zaymira says it took her about two months to write the skirt proposal. “I stayed every day after school with teachers, getting their opinion and doing research. Then I would go home and do even more research.”
The result was a three-page proposal that outlined the reasons why skirts should be a uniform option for all scholars regardless of grade level, and included an argument that “choosing between pants or skirts is a matter of preference, and all female scholars should be afforded the same options as not only the 11th and 12th graders but as successful women in the world such as Michelle Obama and Sheryl Sandberg.”
She took the proposal to Scholar Council, received feedback, and revised it before meeting with DPHH principal, Steve Popper. “We spoke about it, he asked some questions, and eventually it was approved for tenth-grade scholars to wear skirts as part of their uniform.”
“Our scholars do a great job of advocating for themselves respectfully, and we’ve seen so many scholars make thoughtful and well-written proposals,” Popper says. “Zaymira and Lawrence, in particular, are scholars who took the initiative to advocate for initiatives they felt would benefit the school community.”
Lawrence’s proposal was also approved. Recently, the dance club, which consists of 20 scholars, won first place at the DPHHS Spring talent show, he says.
Zaymira said she is proud that she took a chance to advocate for her peers. “No one expected for that big rule to be changed,” she says. “ I said something, and now everyone is wearing skirts.”