One of Nashville’s premier education nonprofits, UniCycle, and community social impact group Restorative Student Leaders have been named finalists for the Nashville Public Education Foundation (NPEF)’s Inspiring Innovation Award. The winner will be announced at the 15th annual Public Schools Hall of Fame on Wednesday, Oct. 2.
The annual Hall of Fame luncheon, presented by First Tennessee, raises funds to support NPEF’s work and aims to inspire future innovators and leaders in the city by honoring those who are making a difference for public schools.
The Inspiring Innovation Award, sponsored by Nissan North America, was created in 2016 to honor those organizations, groups or individuals in our community who better Nashville’s public school students in exciting and creative ways. Both this year’s finalists are using outside-the-box strategies to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing our public school students:
• Founded by Jami Oakley in 2015, UniCycle provides clean, appropriate uniforms for Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) students in need. Through the Homeless Education Resource Office (HERO), UniCycle collects “outgrown, not worn out” school uniforms that are then re-distributed to students at UniCycle Closets found in 50 public schools across Nashville. Nearly 13,000 pieces of clothing were distributed to MNPS students during the 2018–2019 school year alone. But this program is about so much more than clothes; it is about helping students and families focus on what matters most – their studies – rather than worrying about how they will buy expensive school uniforms each year.
• Restorative Student Leaders is an entirely student-led initiative that is creating a powerful culture shift in MNPS. Under the guidance of founder and teacher Laura Fittz and teacher Ellen Montgomery, student leaders at Glencliff and Hillsboro high schools are co-designing and implementing “restorative practices” in their schools. These practices represent an important paradigm shift, moving schools away from punitive cultures and toward school cultures where students and teachers seek to repair and restore damaged relationships. The Restorative Student Leaders, who call themselves the Glencliff Peace Team and Hillsboro CORE, are not only studying social problems affecting their lives, but also designing solutions and leading valuable trainings that are actually solving these problems, forming stronger, safer school communities in the process.
“This year’s finalists perfectly embody the meaning behind this award, and the values of our organization,” said Katie Cour, NPEF president and CEO. “UniCycle and Restorative Student Leaders are on the front lines in our schools, using innovative, bottom-up tactics that are helping to ensure our students have what they need to thrive. I can’t wait to see what both of these organizations do next, and the impact they continue to have in our schools, in our district and in our community at large.”
NPEF will also be presenting Judge Richard Dinkins with the Nelson C. Andrews Distinguished Service Award, as well as inducting Kasar Abdulla, Dr. Adrienne Battle and Jimmy Granbery into the Public Schools Hall of Fame as Distinguished Alumni Award honorees. The winner of the third annual Inspiring Educator Award will also be revealed at the Oct. 2 luncheon. Event co-chairs Janet Miller and Joey Hatch are joined by 2018 honorees Anne Lowry Russell, Ron Corbin and Harry Allen, who are serving as table host chairs for the event.
To purchase tickets, visit nashvillepef.org/hall-of-fame or call 615-727-1515. All proceeds support NPEF’s work to support and strengthen our public schools.