Q: This summer, equity, and inclusion work came into sharp focus for College Prep. How has the School prioritized its response?
This effort has been front and center, even with the challenges of summer schedules and COVID. At the administrative and Board levels, we started with some serious listening and reflecting. Many faculty members engaged in curriculum review and professional development work. I feel optimistic about the energy we’re bringing to both the short and longer term initiatives we’re committed to. We’re working on assessing ourselves through a racially aware and culturally competent lens that will eventually impact all areas of the school, from culture to program, to how we approach hiring, to how we think about admissions and student diversity. As we engage with this work, we have to recognize that it’s iterative and not approach it like a ”to-do” list. We’re putting a lot of things into place, we’ll see what we learn, and then we’ll take the next steps.
Q: Are there any initiatives or programs that you are particularly excited about that started this summer?
A lot of good inspiration came out of a faculty professional development day on equity and inclusion we held back in January of 2019, where we named priorities we wanted to work on, particularly as they related to student life and school culture. We had already created new blocks of time in our weekly schedule, including the Compass block, that made space for personal development and equity and inclusion curriculum. In terms of new programming, we're partnering with the Wayfinder Program for ninth grade, with HIFY for the sophomores’ Wellness and Decision-Making course, and with The Mosaic Project, which is an experiential learning and equity organization that will work with the juniors and seniors. The throughline of all of these programs is the idea of belonging, because that becomes the foundation from so much else happens.
Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge that the College Prep community faces regarding equity and inclusion work?
One of the challenges we're facing is that, as an achievement-oriented culture, we’re not always comfortable making mistakes. When you're doing work on race and equity, there's a lot of stumbling. If we're going to get beyond a surface level, we're going to have to be more comfortable taking on difficult topics and thinking through nuance, especially when people have very different life experiences and perspectives. We need to be able to work through these moments, trusting that when we come out the other side, we'll be stronger. This is one of the reasons I'm interested in exploring what restorative practice could bring to our school, because it's an approach that doesn’t focus on the stumble, but rather on the repair.
Q: How would you like to see alumni get more involved to support equity and inclusion work on campus?
Our students are always interested in the perspectives and experiences of the alums, because it broadens their sense of possibilities. I think this is especially important for our BIPOC students at this moment. There are a number of different ways for folks to get involved. The way that our weekly schedule is organized, we have explicitly created opportunities for alumni to come back and share their expertise or passions through Common Classroom, or to serve in informal mentoring capacities. Eventually, we’d like to explore if this could evolve into a more formal mentoring program.
Q: What personal reflections might you share about the events and experiences of this past summer?
I’ve thought a lot about how important it is for us to be able to translate constructive criticism into learning and actions. This summer was a wakeup call that the same pernicious racism that pervades our society is here, too. Conversations, plans, and actions are happening at independent schools all over the country, in part because students are doing exactly what we’ve taught them to do: to strive to make a difference and to fight for what’s right.