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Fox Lane AVID Students Partner with Byram Hills on Census Video

Fox Lane AVID students work on census video

Fox Lane High School AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) students recently partnered with Byram Hills Global Scholars students to create a video designed to mobilize Mount Kisco residents to take part in the 2020 census. 

After learning that Mount Kisco’s immigrant community was “hard to count” in the 2010 census, a group of Byram Hills students chose to focus a design thinking challenge on removing the stigma and fear from participating. 

“This group of Global Scholars students decided to produce a public service announcement video about what the census is, why it is beneficial to take it, why you shouldn't be afraid to take it, and how you take it,” explained Jennifer Laden, Byram Hills Social Studies Chairperson 6 to 12 and a former Fox Lane High School teacher. “They decided to partner with the Fox Lane students to, first, get feedback on their idea to see if it would alleviate the fear of the census, second, to get ideas on which community members would be most important to include, and third to ask them to participate in the video as key members of the community themselves.”

Before agreeing to partner, Fox Lane’s Diane Sarna brought the idea to her AVID seniors.

“If we were going to get on board, I wanted them to come from a place of knowledge. They had to do all the research before we even agreed,” Sarna said. “It’s a cool project with a real product for the real world and I think, as educators, we’re always searching for those so I was very willing from the start but I knew they had to buy in.”

The Fox Lane students video chatted with Byram Hills students and asked a lot of questions. When it was over, they discussed the project further and agreed to work on it. They continued their research, watching other census videos and dissecting their style as well as looking at maps and some of the questions asked to better understand the census and the fears that may prevent people from completing it.

Byram Hills sent the Fox Lane students a script in Spanish. Most of the students in the class are fluent, but even non-Spanish speakers agreed to participate in Spanish. The class was also asked to suggest public figures who should be in the video because they would be trusted by the target audience.

“In general, that’s where a lot of our work came in for this project,” said Alexander (Sasha) Boyko. “Whereas Byram Hills students had little-to-no connections in Mount Kisco, almost all of us have some sort of connection. We recommended that we use the Mount Kisco mayor, the fire chief, the police department. We recommended Neighbors Link, The Boys and Girls Club, which is really big in Mount Kisco. That’s where a lot of our influence came in. We could help make connections.”

Aside from being an incredible community service project, students themselves gained a lot from the experience.

“Prior to this project, I didn’t really know anything about the census, to be honest. But it got me thinking,” said Richard Ruiz-Bautista. “I’m considering becoming a census taker. I went to a restaurant in Mount Kisco and they had fliers there describing doing it as a job or community service." 

Sasha noted that he was struck by how much money a community can lose when residents go uncounted.

“While we were researching, one of the articles mentioned that for each person that goes unaccounted, a community can lose thousands of dollars. For a smaller community like Mount Kisco, that money could do a lot.”

The finished video will be viewed at Neighbors Link as well as on the websites and social media of Latino U, Boys and Girls Club, the Mount Kisco mayor's office, Westchester Libraries and more.

“I am so proud of both the Byram Hills and Fox Lane students for taking action that will have a direct impact on our local community,” said Laden. 

Mount Kisco Mayor Gina Picinich also voiced her support of the project, saying "We appreciate these impressive students who are working to engage native Spanish speakers. Their video will help to educate an undercounted population and encourage their participation in the 2020 census."