• Maryam Oguntola

Students and Educators for Equity

It is time for the NYC school system to advocate change. As we all know, people of color are discriminated against in every part of the United States and are even more undervalued in the education system. Although this system has made much progress since the era of segregation, we are by no means really changing.

This article will focus on the education system in New York City. This mayoral race seems to have many people of color, yet through reading New York, Schools Are Segregated. Will the Next Mayor Change That? I learned that Black and Latinx students are underrepresented in the NYC public education system. Why? It is better expressed from the following article:


“New York City is home to one of the most segregated school systems in America, in part because of the city’s labyrinth admissions process for selective schools. Housing segregation and school zone lines have produced a divided school system that has been compounded by competitive admissions that separate students by race and class as early as kindergarten (Shapiro, 2019).”


It was shocking to find out NYC has one of the most segregated school systems. Mainly because, as a recent immigrant, I thought this system was better than the ones I had previously attended. I discovered that schools like The Bronx High School of Science had resources that I could have never dreamed of in high school. Although this school is located in a predominantly Black neighborhood, the demographics do not represent this diversity. I realized many other specialized high schools had these same concerns. I began to see this was a significant issue, NYC public education does not reflect the diversity of its population, and it’s segregated in its system. To learn more about this segregation in NYC public schools, check out these three articles New York Schools Most Segregated in the Nation — The Civil Rights Project at UCLA and New York State’s Extreme School Segregation: Inequality, Inaction, and a Damaged Future — The Civil Rights Project at UCLA.


To all the students’ advocates, we must begin prioritizing what marginalized students of color face in NYC public education system; then, all other singularly disadvantaged students will benefit from these changes. This statement is similar to the mission of this organization, Students & Educators for Equity (SEE). SEE began as a collaboration between two groups, one focused on disproportionality, and the other focused on student voice (Student Voice Collaborative ). Their mission is to “advocate for policies and practices that eradicate disproportionality impacting historically marginalized communities.” In NYC, this organization also strives to change this inequity in the educational experiences. Through SEE, students and educators come together to address the inequalities and segregation of NYC schools through equal partnerships.



(Students & Educators for Equity [@realSEEnyc], 2021)


The SEE 2020-2021 team consists of 35 students from 18 NYC schools and five adult partners. Their team is divided into Youth Partner Facilitators, Youth Trainers, Student members, and Adult partners with different responsibilities to create equity and awareness in NYC public schools. This team comes together to fulfill the mission of SEE through “Group Sessions, Infrastructure for Youth-Adult Partnership (student councils, town halls, and equity teams), Inquiry & Action and Quality Review Student Shadowing, Youth Summit and College Now.”To learn more, check out this link What Does SEE Do.






As a movement correspondent, I had the chance to sit with two SEE student members, Titilayo Aluko, an aspiring lawyer and a senior with a passion for social justice at Landmark High School and the Bayard Rustin Education Complex in New York City. And Julian Giordano, a senior at Stuyvesant High school and the Co-Executive Office of the NYC Youth Summit. We discussed the importance of this organization in our community and its impact on their lives. Through this interview, I learned so much more about SEE, their mission, what they hope to achieve, and the impact this organization has made on these students. For the sake of keeping this article digestible, I will be focusing on the recurring themes I found essentially important. Learn more about SEE, find their website, and follow them on Twitter and Instagram @realSEEnyc.



Both Julian and Titilayo describe Students and Educators for Equity as a youth-adult partnership that embodies different schools across NYC, focusing on various social justice issues, especially eradicating disproportionality within schools. SEE defines disproportionality as “the outcome of institutionalized racism and bias that result in discriminatory beliefs, policies, and practices, which negatively affect historically marginalized groups in contrast to privileged groups.”

As members, Titilayo and Julian try to restore justice through practices of restorative justice. When asked what impacts has SEE made on them and their fellow scholars, they stated that SEE has allowed their school to be more restorative in the way conflicts are handled and has created a space of inclusion through officials prioritizing youth voices and issues. Restorative justice, in schools, is used as an alternative method as disciplinary code and as a way of community building mentorships between lower and upper-level students. Furthermore, SEE offers students from around the five boroughs a space to meet, share their experiences, gain resources and learn.


SEE continues to expand and change its approach. For example, it has expanded its focus by bringing in college courses. SEE strives to educate its members on the history of disproportionality, especially in NYC schools. The SEE team meets bi-weekly. It is organized by Youth Partner Facilitators, who develop the SEE curriculum for the year. These meetings create a space for honest discussions about topics related to equity within history and current events. Julian stated that, most importantly, student members share what they have learned at SEE by bringing it back to their schools to create positive change. They receive support to pursue the implementation of plans that bring about change within their schools.

At SEE, these youths see restorative justice practices as a framework. Titilayo describes restorative justice as a way of life for them, especially in the terms of community building, and youth-adult partnerships. Julian stated how this has changed how he interacts with people. He now “steps out and steps back, taking space and making space, listening to people, making people feel comfortable and keeping in touch”


SEE has contributed to education through collecting data from surveys across schools through Youth Participatory Action Research and exposure on issues that plague NYC youths. Through education, they prevent and solve these issues while building great leaders.

SEE works with individual schools through the Department of Education. They are making change at a grassroots impact, starting at the primary school level, educating teachers, empowering students, and creating restorative justice and equity teams in individual schools. Furthermore, they model what future organizations can become in their schools by coming together from across the city and sharing their experiences.


SEE pushes Titilayo and Julian to lead and become leaders by bringing in more students' perspectives and pushing them to create clubs and spaces that bring together diverse groups. Julian began conversations about culturally responsive curriculum and course work and how they reflect student experiences.


As a student activist in Students and Educators for Equity, Titilayo stated that this organization had taught her to see that change does not happen rapidly, and it takes time to create. Hence, patience is vital in the struggle to create change. SEE taught her to acknowledge the disproportionalities within the NYC education system and guided and empowered her with tools and resources to help implement change and seek out allies that can help bring solutions to the problems. Most importantly, she has learned to be resilient when it comes to challenges. As an activist, Julian uses advocacy as his tool; SEE has taught him how to use the resources at his disposal and work within school systems and student government systems to create change. He strives to educate himself, acknowledge his privilege as a white student, not take up space, and does what he can to contribute to these spaces.


When asked to comment on the importance of SEE and its members, Titilayo stated that SEE shows that youth voices matter because when they speak about the issues that concern youth, they are heard, and change does happen. Julian noted that they take topics like student voice and equity at SEE and delve beyond the surface. They look at the long-term goals and work on the future that we as youth want to see. They use youth voices to create partnerships and systems to create change. SEE delves beyond equity and equality to arrive at a state of liberation for all students. (See image below for reference)


There are no direct ways for youths as individuals to get directly involved with SEE because this organization works with NYC schools to recruit student members, but there is an application system to become part of SEE. Currently, SEE has become limited to the schools with adult partnerships, and they have an opportunity to reapply to join every year. To learn more about joining or the application process, contact them through this form. Stay tuned for the 2021 Youth Summit hosted by Students and Educators for Equity (SEE) and Youth Restorative Justice (YRJ) by completing the general registration form before May 22nd. More information regarding the 2021 Youth Summit can be found at the bottom, and remember to check out WHAT IS THE YOUTH SUMMIT? And the Resource Library to learn more about this event, including who the hosts are, and check out the digital resources gathered from presenters, panelists, performers, and partner schools.


Remember to stay in touch with SEE and follow them on Twitter and Instagram @realSEEnyc



YOUTH SUMMIT


Youth Summit NYC is an annual event, hosted by Students and Educators for Equity (SEE) and Youth Restorative Justice (YRJ), that brings together a collective of student activists and adult allies to highlight the effects of disproportionality on students while providing best practices for building community and addressing inequities. Through the authentic youth-adult partnership, we aim to elevate student perspectives and foster inclusive, humanizing, and critical learning environments for all members of our school communities.


Youth Summit will be held virtually on June 3rd and include dynamic keynote speakers, workshops, performances, and a virtual reality art gallery! There are no requirements to attend, except for filling out the registration form! Registration closes on May 22nd.


Looking ahead, please be advised that workshop registration will be open from May 22nd-May 31st. Make sure to keep an eye out on your inbox around that time to ensure you get your top choices as workshops will be capped at 25 participants.


CLICK HERE to complete the General Registration form.


If you have any questions regarding registration or related, please feel free to reach out: YouthSummitNYC@strongschools.nyc. And follow them on Twitter and Instagram @youthsummitnyc.


We look forward to seeing you at the Summit!


The Youth Summit Steering Committee



Copyright © 2021 YouthSummitNYC, All rights reserved




References

Shapiro, E. (2021, January 29). New York schools are Segregated. Will the next mayor change that? The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/29/nyregion/nyc-mayoral-race-school-segregation.html

Students & Educators for Equity [@realSEEnyc]. (2021, May 4). Students & educators for equity on [Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/realSEEnyc/status


















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