In the past year, I’ve made a lot of changes both personally and professionally. In February, I accepted the position as a Newman’s Own Foundation Fellow. The month of May rolled around, and I graduated from Hamilton College as a Communication and Latin American Studies major. Less than a month later and I moved from Clinton, NY to Hartford, CT to start my fellowship at The Discovery Center, an educational equity organization fighting to increase equity and eliminate racial bias within the education system.
Working at The Discovery Center has heightened my consciousness about structural inequalities that exists in the public school system- disparate expulsion and suspension rates for students of color, the lack of a diverse faculty in schools, unequal funding for schools of different socio-economic status- and the list persists. The Discovery Center works hard to encourage equitable thinking in the mind of educators and young folk. Through our Residential Camp Program, we educate youth about what equity is – making sure that everyone has what they need to grow and thrive- and ask them to identify, how they can identify, and rectify inequity within their communities. We also work with educators, preparing them to support diversity, multiculturalism, and equity in their classrooms.
As a black woman graduate of a PWI (predominantly white institution), the concept of equity was brought to my attention multiple times, although at the time I did not have the word to define my thoughts. It was brought up when I asked myself why there was a deficit in teachers of color, specifically women and non-conforming teachers of color who did not work in a language department or the Africana studies department? It also broached my mind when the staff was predominantly white. Where were the women and men of color in the health center, in the counseling center, career center, and student resource centers? Where were the people whose shared experiences as members of marginalized communities allowed them to advocate for the marginalized students of my college?
It brought to the forefront of my mind of how higher education- especially privatized higher ed institutions- have a lot of work when it comes to diversifying their staff, resources, faculty and curriculum to better serve their diversifying student bodies in equitable ways. However, the way some higher ed institutions look at diversity and inclusion- the same way one would check a box on a to do list- does not lend them the empathetic point of view, to realize that they are doing their marginalized students a disservice by not making sure that equity is at the core of their practices and policies.
If there is something I’ve learned during the last six months here at The Discovery Center, it is the value of equity, and the necessity that it be at the core of all organizations and institutions. We live in a diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual nation and we should be proud that we are not a monolith, although some would prefer otherwise. It is crucial that we provide the resources necessary for individuals in our diverse communities to thrive.