As part of the Washington Afterschool Network (WAN) Meeting on March 2, we hosted a panel and dialogue to talk about racial equity, the achievement gap and the role that Afterschool and Youth Development (AYD) could or should play in these matters. I anticipated an interesting conversation but I have to admit – the panel did not go exactly as planned though I could not have planned it any better than what organically transpired.
Inspiring, thought-provoking, sometimes jolting sharing interspersed with soul-shaking laughter and passionate discourse is what you get when you bring a dynamic, expert panel together.
Dr. Thelma Jackson, veteran educator and champion for Washington kids, shared hard facts and truths with substance and unabashed style as only Dr. Jackson can! Engaged in decades of policy work, Dr. Jackson charged the AYD field to focus on policy work that brings about systemic change and to assign each child with equal value and equal voice.
Noah Prince, Partnership Administrator-Tacoma 360 and the 2001 Afterschool Ambassador for Washington State, spoke honestly about unearned access also known as “white privilege” as a white male steeped in social justice work, community building and positive youth development.
Louie Praseuth (left) shared his immigrant experience as a Southeast Asian raised in Seattle. Louie in his quiet, insightful and powerful way challenged the audience to “approach ignorance with questions” and stay committed to issues of equity and justice.
Former Assistant State Superintendent, Erin Jones, stressed an asset-based approach in dealing with the ‘opportunity gap’. Erin shared poignant, personal stories of her experience as a biracial teen, woman and educator that brought the issue home for many participants.
The panel presentation was followed by interesting and spirited comments and conversation amongst WAN members. It was evident that School’s Out Washington’s leadership and engagement of the AYD field on issues of racial equity is necessary and welcomed. I left the meeting drained and at the same time energized by the caliber of colleagues, partners and equity warriors in the room. I am blessed to be a part of an organization and a field that cares about the success of the whole child and all children. The dialogue and most importantly the work to create the spaces and systems kids need to succeed in school and life continues!
In the words of a Presenter: Noah Prince, Tacoma 360 “I had the honor of participating on a School’s Out Washington Racial Equity/Achievement Gap Panel with Dr. Thelma Jackson, Erin Jones and Louie Praseuth on Friday March 2nd at the Tumwater ESD. The discussion between panel members and audience was engaging, courageous and real. Issues such as institutional racism, policy change vs. programmatic chance, challenging colorblind ideology and building generational bridges between the civil rights struggle and the achievement gap struggle were all discussed with honesty and passion. It is so important to have critical conversations about racial equity within our educational system. It’s challenging because as afterschool care providers the group is able to bring a racial equity lenses to their work, but that doesn’t necessarily move the equity needle on the school day experience so we struggled and challenged ourselves to figure out what our role was in brining systemic change to the school district thru our programs which embrace social justice and equity. I look forward to more dialogues and aligned movement in the racial equity/educational excellence for all movement in 2012. Thanks for Amanda Scott Thomas and School’s Out Washington for hosting such a riveting event.”
In the words of a Participant: Meka Riggins, Professional Development Program Manager; Washington State Child Care Resource & Referral Network
“I want to thank Washington Afterschool Network for approaching the topic of Policy, Partnership and Practice with such care, candor and passion. I was not aware of the difference between the opportunity gap and the achievement gap until Erin Jones and Dr. Thelma Jackson provided clarity on the subjects during our last WAN meeting. Dr. Jackson’s explanation about the disparity among children of middle-class white communities and lower-income, non-white communities led me to question my community’s level of commitment and investment in the success of “our” children. Erin Jones explained that the opportunity gap occurs when these same students do not have an equal chance at life’s opportunities. I appreciate Dr. Jackson for calling into question the structural failures of our education system and for challenging us to keep this issue in mind as we operate in our field of expertise on behalf of children. And it was emotional to hear Erin’s recent, personal account of facing challenges that our children face every day. And while they both seemed to be fighting for the same goal, they demonstrated that there are various avenues to change. I find that with every new piece of information I receive about out-of-school child care, I am introduced to a new twist in the landscape of life as a child, as a community member and as a parent. Thank you.”