2020 - AT LARGE REGION
Alexandra Drakeford is a senior at Pine Lake Preparatory in Mooresville, North Carolina. Alex serves as student body president, was crowned Homecoming Queen, and founded Teaching Tolerance @PLP. As racial tension increased across the country, Alex noticed that her school, like others, has suffered the consequences and sought to ease tension and build a community through education. While it may have been easier to simply suspend or punish a student for ignorance, Alex prioritized growth-centered solutions instead. She made it her mission to make Pine Lake a better environment for every student. In 2018, Alex began searching for a program that would align the core curriculum with education regarding diversity. When she came across Teaching Tolerance, the goals of the program directly aligned with her goals for Pine Lake. To start Teaching Tolerance @PLP, she initially recruited three students to develop lessons for students in first, fourth and seventh grade. Today, the team consists of 24 high school students who are educating their peers and contributing to creating awareness and prioritizing inclusivity. Teaching Tolerance @PLP students create monthly lessons regarding race, religion, socioeconomic status, gender, disabilities, and intersectionality. An estimated 800 K-12 students have received Teaching Tolerance lessons, while the group has taught more than 130 classes during the 2019-20 school year. From team-building activities to hosting training sessions from her home, providing feedback for lessons, collaborating with teachers to develop curriculum, pitching the program to educators, teaching, and developing master teaching schedules, Alex has created a program that will continue to impact Pine Lake and the surrounding schools and community. She plans to help local schools implement the program, too. Teaching Tolerance has a team of sophomores in place to succeed current student leaders in the program. Students actively recruit peers to join the team for the years to come. Out of the many lessons Alex has learned from Teaching Tolerance @PLP, these three have instilled new pillars in her character: Education is impactful; a strong community is powerful; and diversity should unite us, not divide us.