"In crucial things, unity. In important things, diversity. In all things, generosity." - The late George H.W. Bush, 41st President of the United States and Graduate of Phillips Andover Academy, MA
Last month, I had the great joy of visiting a relatively new school, Christina Seix Academy, in Trenton, New Jersey. Founded in 2012, the school enrolls just under 200 students in elementary and middle grades and is fully funded thanks to the generous vision of its founder, Christina Seix. In a new documentary, she explains that her vision for the school grew from her own experience in a single-family household with limited resources. Though she had little financial means, Christina benefited from her mother’s rich commitment to learning, communication, high expectations, and unconditional love. Christina worked hard as a young person to become well educated, and went on to conquer Wall Street, build her own investment firm, and ultimately to found a school for young people with big dreams but limited means.
During my visit to CSA, Christina’s vision was clearly realized in the students and faculty with whom I conversed. Three students in CSA’s first graduating class (now 6th graders, class of 2021) offered speeches about their passions and interests, and explained their dreams of becoming a rap artist, an investigator (uncovering fraud against the poor), and a children’s book author. It was moving to see how quickly (in just 6 years!) the mission of CSA has been realized and it was a beautiful reminder of the power of a great education.
At The Enrollment Management Association, an integral part of our mission is to increase access to independent schools by helping admission and enrollment leaders build diverse communities of students. Every year, EMA’s budget devotes over $1,500,000 to free testing/practice/application services in support of students with great promise but limited means. In partnership with numerous access organizations, community-based organizations, and with our member schools, EMA plays an important role in helping young people find their way to a great education.
Yet, there’s more work to be done when it comes to diversity and inclusion matters in our schools. Last spring, EMA’s Admission Leadership Council (ALC) chose “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” as the theme for 2018’s regional Seminar Series. The ALC put together an impressive set of speakers (read more here) that challenged our 627 attendees to think differently and to engage in conversations about how to improve access to independent schools. Additionally, recent recommendations from EMA’s Enrollment Management Think Tank (chronicled in this report) are being worked into our next strategic plan as we consider ways to tackle implicit bias in the admission process and train all professionals to ensure a fair and consistent review of students. It was thrilling this year to host over 200 professionals at our annual conference People of Color Reception; special thanks to EMA’s working group, comprised of (photo left, l-r) Rohan Arjun, George School (PA); Yocelin Gonzalez, The Meadowbrook School of Weston (MA); Kemi T. Nonez, Durham Academy (NC); and Donnie Smith, Brooklyn Friends School (NY), who are working with our staff to support people of color in admission. The working group and the ALC are both focused on what EMA might do to better prepare admission officers for the diversity challenges in their work.
At EMA, we’re proud to have a diverse staff (45% people of color) and a diverse board (36% people of color) and we remain committed to our own education and service work. This holiday season, the EMA team worked to ensure that Trenton students with limited resources would have a happy holiday. Our 44 staff members contributed 200 books, $2,500 in gift cards, and a carload of new coats and clothing for nearby students/families in need. We also volunteered at Trenton's Franklin Elementary School to build gingerbread houses and winter crafts with over 200 young people. (Imaginations ran wild in some classrooms, with graham cracker fortresses, swimming pools, and castles covered in icing, marshmallows, and Twizzlers!) It was a heartwarming and fun experience to be with young people and other educators at Franklin Elementary and at Christina Seix Academy this month, and to remember that we are ALL committed to improving lives of young people through education. This spring, at EMA, we are excited to work with Dr. Derrick Gay, an expert and consultant on diversity and inclusion issues, as we become more educated in the issues surrounding inclusion.
Though it is easy to become disheartened by the hatred and bias in our country, I have been renewed by connecting with students this season. It is clear that they are ready to demand more of this country and of others, as we build a more just and equitable society.
My friends, as you make decisions this winter that will change young lives, remember that you are part of a noble enterprise and an important calling. Thanks for all that you do to ensure that young people will go into the world committed to unity, diversity, and generosity. Thanks for your important commitment to creating an educational community where #everythingISpossible.
Here’s to a wonderful 2019,