Decatur High School’s role in City of Decatur’s partnership with UNICEF


Senior Owen Lambert responds to the questions on the board

The City of Decatur is continuing its efforts to be designated as one of the first Child Friendly Cities under the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). If Decatur achieves this goal, it will join cities such as Houston, San Francisco, and Minneapolis in implementing local plans and policies to improve the lives of children overall—but especially those living in Decatur—on an economic and social basis.

With UNICEF’s partnership, the City of Decatur is taking its first step in the process by reaching out to the City Schools of Decatur system, specifically Renfroe Middle School and Decatur High School. 

Dianne Andree, the Student Success Director, is facilitating the first step at Decatur High School. 

“So, the City Schools of Decatur is trying to support this initiative… [And UNICEF] definitely [wants] middle school and high school input, especially because they move about more independently than the younger kids,” Andree said.

Near the courtyard-side windows in the Decatur High cafeteria, Andree has encouraged students to participate in a questionnaire activity at her booth. First, she asks them to note their opinions on the high school and its different values. Using large sheets of paper, students draw small circles with markers or place dots to rate their agreement to certain questions about the high school and surrounding Decatur area. Questions range on topics from safety to support and are on a scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”. 

Senior Owen Lambert was one of the students who answered the questionnaire. He described how the activity provided a platform for him to share his opinion of Decatur High School.

“Well, personally, on the questions relating to social issues or relations in the school, I answered mostly disagree. I feel a lot of social issues are kind of masked because there are a lot of [issues] not spoken about or not really heard of. Students may not feel entitled to speak to an authority or supervisor about that for confidence reasons or feeling that they’ll be singled out,” Lambert said.

In addition to the questionnaire activity in the lunchroom, Andree also asked students to scan a QR code, which links to a brief survey that qualifies them to be selected for a small, focus group hosted by UNICEF.

“At the focus group, [UNICEF is] going to be sharing the data that they’ve collected thus far—and probably asking more questions, because a lot of people are answering the questions, but only a few people are giving the why. And so, as an incentive for that, they are going to serve pizza and they’re going to offer a $30 gift card,” Andree added.

According to Andree, there has been a high total student turnout for this initiative; however, the day-to-day number is unpredictable. 

“It was interesting on Friday [Apr. 22] because I would have an individual come up. And then sometimes there was a whole group of [students] that came up together. So, it just really varies,” Andree said.

Overall, Andree is passionate about allowing student voices to prosper in activities such as these.

“That’s a critical piece and I’m really glad they’re collecting student voice,” Andree said. Of course, I was right on board with that because when we started the Decatur Student Center, we actually did a focus group as well because we wanted your input. These are your spaces, your places, and you need a voice.”