MSP Gains Momentum at 11th Annual Retreat


Amari Robinson

Students from all over the county participated in the 11th Annual Intra-County MSP retreat at Walter Johnson High School.

Selali Obobi, Staff Writer

   On March 19 students from 25 high schools and 22 middle schools in the county met at Walter Johnson High School for the 11th Intra-County Minority Scholars Program (MSP) Retreat. 

   The retreat took place from 8:30 in the morning until 3:30 pm. The program started when students checked in at the front desk and were given QR codes linked to information about different activists throughout history like like Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges and many others. Each QR code led to different schedules that students could follow to attend different workshops throughout the day.

   Students attended four workshops throughout the day: Session 1: The Opportunity Gap and Levels of Racism, Session 2: The Checking your Biases and Stereotypes, Session 3: Minority Empowerment and  Session 4: Representation. 

   Students explored different subtopics within each session such as addressing the Opportunity Gap and why it has changed from the achievement gap, the four main levels of racism and how they differ from one another as well as how implicit bias can affect us all. The smaller discussions prompted larger conversations among all students. The elementary and middle school students who attended offered much insight to their personal stories, which allowed for new perspectives that not even the older students had initially thought about.

   After lunch, the students made their way back to the auditorium to watch their peers perform in the talent show portion of the event. As the first majorettes team to ever perform at an MSP Retreat, the DHS Hornettes gave a performance to remember. Outstanding performances were delivered by students from B-CC’s fashion department, step teams from various schools and a rendition of “Ghost Busters” that may be considered a crowd favorite.

   Student facilitators also had the opportunity to speak to the crowd in what is called an “MSP Talk,” which is self-written spoken word about whatever topic the authors are passionate about. One of the most captivating speeches was made by a student named Hasham Khan from Watkins Mill high school. As he recounted aspects of colorism in both his community and others, he also addressed aggressions that black women face on a daily basis: how they are deemed as too loud, too aggressive and too much overall. He explained that because of his light skin, he is seen as superior to others of his own culture. He did not fail to address how he intends to do his part to be on the side that wants to fix these issues. 

   The day concluded with the school debrief, where students have the chance to meet in groups by school and talk about what they learned throughout the retreat and what they can do to make a change in MCPS as an MSP unit. Afterward, students shared how they plan to make a difference in their own schools.

   MSP started as a group of 12 students at Walter Johnson high school in 2005 in an attempt to address the lack of minority student representation in advanced-level courses and in extracurricular activities. Mr. Michael Williams, Ms. Esther Adams, Dr. Chris Garran and Dr. Edgar Malker assembled a group of Black and Latino students to combat these various issues, thus kicking off the MSP initiative.

   The movement soon picked up at other schools, and in 2008 Clarksburg High School established their chapter of MSP. Continuing the cycle, two years later, Wooton and Bethesda-Chevy Chase high schools joined in on the action.

   There are currently 25 high schools and 22 middle schools with MSP programs. Elementary schools are the fastest growing schools joining the MSP movement in Montgomery County.