During all-school assembly on Wednesday, November 18, Julian Braxton, director of equity and inclusion and history faculty, introduced the community to the new Student Board for Equity and Inclusion, a student-run board, advised by Mr. Braxton, formed to advocate for student voices in DEI issues and create a more inclusive community. The members of the board for 2020-2021 are: Emma Charity ’21, Helen Buckley-Jones ’21, Nora Estrada ’21, Lillian Gibson ’21, Salma Ibrahim ’21, Alexis Vilmenay ’21, Isabella Dehni ’21, and Anne Joseph ’21.
“In and outside of school, Winsor students are fighting for the equality of all people, but often feel disempowered to make any change within their school community,” noted Isabella, reflecting on why the decision was made to form a board. “I wanted to create and be a part of this board in order to give younger students the support I wish I had. We truly aim to amplify the voices of all students.”
Emphasizing the board’s mission, Helen shared, “We are seeking long-term, sustainable change, so that we can prevent instances like those discussed in the Hidden Voices posts from happening in the first place.” Meetings with students, teachers, and administration over the summer resulted in “four general strategies to help facilitate this change. We want to foster a culture of safe, conscious, and open dialogue within the Winsor community, educate students and teachers about DEI issues by hosting trainings, events, discussions, and speakers, and finally we want to create safe platforms for voices, particularly student voices, to be heard.”
The board has outlined action plans for the year, beginning with a census that went to Upper School students in October to gauge which issues are the most pressing in the Winsor community from student perspectives. In November, the Board hosted two workshops at the AISNE Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Conference entitled From the Top Make it Drop: The Impact of Social Media on Body Image and The Age of Instagram: Activism in a Digital World. “Talking to middle schoolers about topics relating to race, gender, activism, and many more was a really memorable experience for the whole board, and we’re grateful we had the opportunity to facilitate those discussions,” said Anne. The board will also be seeking opportunities to connect with parents and alumnae, and has already begun working with a group of parents who are organizing the MLK event in January, aiming to bring Upper School students of color together to participate and share their experiences.
While supporting Affinity Groups, clubs, and other opportunities that promote inclusion, conversation and learning opportunities will be central to the board’s ongoing efforts, an essential goal is also to create a pipeline for sharing input on the curriculum and ensuring classrooms are inclusive spaces. As Lillian shared, the hope is to “fill gaps in Winsor’s push to be a more inclusive community and have a strong focus on students and issues they all care about. We will seek to have connections with the faculty departments heads to make the most out of the board that we can.”
Reflecting on the events of the summer, Salma shared, the “silenced stories and voices from students and alums of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community served as an additional motivator for the creation of a student-led board to address the needs of the hidden voices at Winsor.” Faced with the reality of the work that needs to be done, and the need for more support, she added, “Our collective hopes to serve as a go between for students and the administration on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We hope to foster a culture of open dialogue and create more opportunities that involve the voices of the adults at Winsor,” she said, adding “In order to truly make progress, students and faculty alike need to feel comfortable asking questions, having genuine conversations, and offering constructive criticism and advice in good faith.”
In order to keep community members updated on the board's efforts, informed about DEI issues, and maintain transparency at all times, the board has created a webpage, in the final stages of revision, that will serve as the central resource. It will include ways to engage parents, actionable steps, links and articles, an area for student suggestions, a media spotlight, and more.