Principal Valerie Torres-Solis calls out to a noisy cafeteria full of middle school students, “Say it loud say it proud. PAREDES PRIDE.”
The room shouts back:
The words hang in the air as a hush falls on the room.
At Paredes Middle School in Austin ISD, each week kicks off with two back-to-back meetings of roughly 450 students each that set the tone for the week ahead.
At the start of a ritual Monday meeting, Principal Torres-Solis instructs the students, “Turn to your neighbor, shake his or her hand, and say, ‘Good morning!’” All students follow suit and greet the person to their right and left.
Next, Torres-Solis calls out, “Tell the person next to you,’You are awesome.’” Again, the students turn to the person to their right and left, and share the words of affirmation.
The remainder of the meeting follows in this call-and-response style, punctuated with students standing at the front of the room sharing about projects or delivering announcements. Each speaker stands tall and calls out, “My name is _____, and I am Paredes Pride!”
The convening jump starts the week with a sense of camaraderie—from celebrating student success in academics, extra-curriculars, and athletics to making space for collective student grief or joy and giving students a platform to proudly rise and speak in front of their peers.
“It’s important that we help our kids understand this is a community where we celebrate each other and we celebrate greatness,” Torres-Solis explains. “I love middle school because it’s that time where you can inspire students to either love school or hate school. Our job here is to inspire them to love school and embrace education, to really see who they are and love who they are, and stand with pride.”