Is there anything that you or your department is worried about coming into the new school year?
Our office is always attentive to the myriad issues that can undermine our efforts to dismantle inequity in all its forms. As we have returned to school during a global pandemic, we are acutely aware of the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on communities of color, for instance. We remain vigilant in our work to understand these impacts, especially as it relates to our students and their families. For example, at the onset of COVID-19, we were dismayed to see a rise in racism toward Asian Americans as a result of national rhetoric in reference to the virus. This was very hurtful to many in our community, and we worked hard to discourage any bias-based rhetoric in our learning communities. Furthermore, this summer, we bore witness to the many ways the American justice system continues to disenfranchise Black people and other communities of color. This racial trauma impacts all of us, and we want to be attentive to this reality also. This school year we are committed to vigilance about how we can be proactive about preventing bias-based behaviors in our community.
Is there anything the Wellesley students should know about that’s going on at the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) office?
Yes! For Latinx Heritage Month, we have shared many resources with our community to build awareness of the many ways Americans of Hispanic heritage have shaped our country. This October, we also marked Solidarity Week, a week dedicated to lifting up the voices and experiences of those in the LGBTQ+ community. For students in grades 7-12, we are exploring the formation of a DEI Student Advisory Council. We have had more than forty students express interest in this idea, and so we are looking forward to institutionalizing student voice as a permanent presence in our district’s DEI strategy. Here’s a plug: If you are a student who is interested in being a part of this work, please email the DEI office: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are the different challenges facing WHS in terms of diversity, and what can students, and teachers do to combat them?
Because we exist in a racialized society, the impact of racism is always present with us. The scholar Beverly Daniel Tatum, in her book “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria”, describes this as smog that we are all breathing in. We always have to be aware of this. This awareness, self-awareness, in particular, is one of the most important steps we can all take to challenge racism, sexism, heteronormativism, ableism, and all of the other ways that marginalization and inequities occur. In the high school, and all other schools in our district, we want to be thinking about how we are building spaces where belonging is truly a lived value, that all of our students feel this deeply, and because of it, they are allowed to truly flourish in their many gifts and talents.
What do you hope to achieve as the director of diversity, and how can students support you and your goals?
Wow! This is a big question. I am in my second year of a new role, in charge of stewarding the equity agenda of our district. When I stop to reflect on the magnitude of this role, I have to say, it is first so humbling to be in such a role. My goals for this role have always been shaped by my personal core values. Vocationally, I have a call to pursue justice on behalf of the children. This is the call that led me to switch careers more than ten years ago from being a journalist to entering the field of education. This vocational call centers me. My goal in this work is to build the capacity of students and adults to be people who fight every day, in their own sphere, to ensure that others have the ability to flourish — to be champions of justice. Also, in this work, I hope to help cultivate a culture of compassionate accountability — where we hold ourselves to high standards for achieving equity, and we work together to see this through. This collective commitment is what I know has the ability to change the world we live in.