MSU and the Lansing School District: Building an Intergenerational Constellation of Partnerships with Latinx and Indigenous Lansing School District Youth and Families

J. Estrella Torrez, Residential College in the Arts and Humanities
Lansing School District

Nationally, graduation rates amongst Indigenous and Latinx youth have increased over the past twenty years, but these rates are not reflected in the Lansing School District (LSD). In response to these findings, the LSD has pivoted to activate the vast community resources in Greater Lansing, including Michigan State University, to provide Indigenous and Latinx students across the Greater Lansing area the opportunity to engage in building community around storytelling, place-making, cross-peer mentoring, and youth participatory action research. Through a series of community-generated, youth-led activities, Torrez and the LSD have worked diligently to provide culturally responsive programs to address community-identified needs.
In 2009, Dr. Torrez co-founded the Indigenous Youth Empowerment Program (IYEP) with Becky Roy, Native American program coordinator with the LSD, and Ashley Harding, Native American outreach advocate with the Ingham County Health Department. IYEP has grown to become a central component to the school district’s support for the local Indigenous community. 
Torrez continued to develop her partnership with the LSD working alongside Sergio Keck, deputy superintendent of special populations, to serve the LSD’s Latinx community through the “Nuestros Cuentos” project, which focuses on working together to reimagine public spaces, and the Latinx Leadership Program.