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District partners with St. Louis Mosaic Project

The Rockwood School District recently became an ambassador for the St. Louis Mosaic Project, which aims to create a more culturally diverse and aware community.

The project, which launched ten years ago, offers different programs to make St. Louis a welcoming environment for immigrants, creating a mosaic of cultures across the area. In doing so, the project offers ambassadorships to schools who are working towards similar goals in cultural education. World Language and ESOL Coordinator Jeff Tamaroff said that the district was eager to join the program, although they are still developing the specific additions that will come to Rockwood, as each ambassador school’s program is unique.

“Being in the St. Louis Mosaic Ambassador Program allows Rockwood to join a network of more than 120 schools and more than 50 businesses around the St. Louis region who are committed to reinforcing a community culture of inclusion and welcoming. We’re still in the early stages of determining all the ways this partnership can be beneficial to Rockwood, but the hope is that being a part of this Mosaic Ambassador community opens us up to increased resources and exposure to the international community in the greater St. Louis area,” Tamaroff said.

Although plans to join the project preceded his arrival to the district last fall, superintendent Dr. Curtis Cain said that the project will be a beneficial addition to curriculum already present in world language classrooms and a good fit for the Way Forward Plan, Rockwood’s strategic plan..

“This is in many ways an extension of programming that comes from our world languages department. We know there are other districts that have participated in the Mosaic program and I know that it’s been a source of conversation in Rockwood even prior to my arrival in the district,” Cain said. “The Way Forward Plan is very holistic in nature, and it talks about a number of areas of focus, specifically for students. There’s specific mention of diverse experiences and backgrounds and, in this case, languages and cultures as well, so it’s just a natural extension of meeting the needs and strategic objectives that are listed in our five year plan.”

Community interest in representing the diversity of Rockwood, Tamaroff said, prompted the district to apply for the ambassadorship program. Although the pandemic stalled the process, the application was submitted this spring.

“Staff members and parents in the district expressed an interest in joining the Ambassador Program to further recognize and celebrate the impact of international families on our Rockwood community. For instance, there are more than a dozen home countries and primary languages represented by families in Fenton Quadrant schools alone. After the COVID-19 pandemic stalled the process, Dr. Cain encouraged us to restart the application process for the district as a whole. After reviewing the application materials, we realized that we already met the majority of the criteria as a district. So, this past spring, we gathered our materials and submitted them,” Tamaroff said.

Outside of joining the program, Tamaroff said that the district has promoted cultural diversity through other events and resources for students and their families.

“Many Rockwood schools participate in annual international festivals to celebrate the diversity in their school communities; from longstanding celebrations to new traditions such as last spring’s inaugural Fenton Quadrant International Celebration. Rockwood schools employ foreign-born staff members and staff with second-language skills, feature staff Equity Ambassadors in schools across the district and promote a culture of belonging through dignity by striving to ensure all members of the community feel personally appreciated, validated, accepted and treated fairly.”

In regards to the international celebration, Spanish teacher Kim Lackey said that she would like to see expansion with more participation from the students and outside organizations.

“I would love to see our international night that we did last year as a Fenton quadrant to see that expanded with more participation, and maybe bringing in some groups that could help to showcase the multiculturalism that exists in our community– not just in Fenton, but in St. Louis as a wider community,” Lackey said.

Cain said that Rockwood is committed to inclusion to make sure each student feels welcomed in the district.

“We want to make sure that students see themselves, not only on library shelves, but in classrooms and in lessons. As they’re working their way through different assignments and projects, they’re able to see themselves in that work. Regardless of where and what a student comes from, if they’re in the Rockwood School District, they’re a part of the Rockwood School District, and we want to continue to make sure we can meet the needs of all students,” Cain said.

When it comes to cultural diversity, Lackey said she is glad to see the district delivering on their promises.

“Like many things, sometimes it feels like Rockwood is talking about it, but not necessarily taking action, so I feel like this partnership with Mosaic is a really good indicator of a way to take action on what they say their beliefs are,” Lackey said.

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About the Contributor
Mary Corkery, Editor-In-Chief
Class of 2025 Time on staff: 3 years Favorite newspaper memory: My first January stay late when our editor accidently stole a pizza Favorite song: "Bottle Rocket" by Briston Maroney and Manchester Orchestra

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