Me2We 2017 photography by Emmanuel Figaro
The civil rights movement is one of the defining events in American history, providing a poignant example of Americans fighting for the ideals of justice and equality. When students learn about the movement, they learn what it means to be an active American citizen. They learn how to recognize injustice. They learn about the role of individuals, as well as the importance of organization. And they see that people can come together to stand against oppression.
In Asheville, the civil rights movement was led by a group of high school students, known as ASCORE (Asheville Student Commission on Racial Equality). Beginning in 1960, ASCORE systematically and peacefully desegregated Asheville’s lunch counters, libraries, pools and parks. Since 2012, these individuals have partnered with a collaboration of organizations to hold an annual 2-day summer conference known as Me2We. The conference is planned and led in part by youth, and is attended by 100 high school and middle school students each year.
The June conference relies on intergenerational instruction, experiential learning and peer mentoring to promote racial equity in our community. Working with college alumni of previous Me2We conferences, the student participants will learn about social justice issues rooted in the past, examine current trends for societal change, and create a plan of action to transform our collective future.
Me2We inspires the leaders of today to become the leaders of tomorrow.
Me2We 2017 was held at Asheville Middle School Thursday June 22 and Friday June 23.
Who is involved in Me2We:
Approximately 100 local middle and high school students, with both minority and majority identities, and with a critical mass of students of color.
What Me2We is:
A totally free, two-day conference focusing on developing and empowering leadership in equity and inclusion among the youth and young adults of Asheville, NC.
Where it's held:
Me2We is hosted by local organizations committed to equity and inclusion, including (but not limited to) the UNC Asheville Sherrill Center, UNCA OLLI Center, and the YMI.
When it's held:
Every year in mid June, since 2011.
Why Me2We is held:
To help intentionally develop the social justice leaders in and around Asheville to continue the work of progressing equity and inclusion.
How it's planned:
Each month a cohort of 7 local Asheville institutions who work directly with youth come together to form the conference steering committee. The committee constructs a basic framework for the conference, including funding, location, and basic theme and structure. The bulk of the conference and facilitation is done by Asheville high school seniors and college students.
The conference will never be funded by fees or costs directly to the participants. In the past, funding has been put together through grants and donations from various organizations and corporations in Asheville. Current planning intends to draw funding for Me2We from our Yearly ASCORE awards luncheon, which was piloted during the Center for Diversity Education's 20th anniversary in 2015.
Mission, Vision, Goals, Practice
To empower local middle and high school students to become change agents in their communities throughout their lives, through leadership and social justice education
Through research and collaborative partner relationships with local organizations serving youth and young adults, students will gain skills in equity, inclusion, and social justice, empowering them to become life long change agents.
- Promote a positive sense of self
- Gain critical thinking skills
- Support positive views of others
- Build the power for young people to spearhead social change
The Me2We cohort meets monthly to set a basic framework and focus for the conference. Starting in March, the steering committee begins to meet regularly with young adults and college students, who further develop the conference curriculum. They also design and facilitate the conference workshops.
The committee works diligently and intentionally to ensure that each Me2We is attended predominantly by students of color and minority students.
Originally intended to focus only on race, the scope of the conference has continually expanded to include issues of gender, sexuality, class, ability, and religion.
The Me2We Cohort
The Me2We steering committee draws from 7 local organizations that work directly with youth and young adults:
Me2We draws upon two major praxes for youth development and social justice leadership empowerment:
1. Seven of the "40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents" developed by the Search Institute
Community Values Youth - young person perceives that adults in the community value youth.
Youth as Resources - young people are given useful roles in the community.
Caring - young person places high value on helping other people
Equality and Social Justice - young person places high value on promoting equality and reducing hunger and poverty
Integrity - young person acts on convictions and stands up for their beliefs
Cultural Competence - young person has knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds
Sense of Purpose - young person reports that "my life has purpose"
2. The Core Values of the Asheville Student Commision on Racial Equality (ASCORE)
ASCORE was a student-led group of Black high schoolers and a few white allies who worked to peacefully desegregate Asheville from 1960-1965. Me2We honors the vision and success of ASCORE by adopting their core values.
- Creativity in social justice actions
- Actively seeking out the advice and support of adult mentorship
- Community building across minority and majority populations
- Practing peer-to-peer mentoring with fellow students
In the News
"Me2We conference brings teens together with Asheville's civil rights pioneers" (City of Asheville blog)
"Youth Leadership Conference for Social Justice" (The Urban News)
"Jump start: Me2We conference helps youths leap ahead" (The Mountain Xpress)