What is your experience in working with African American and Latino youth? how that experience will inform your decision-making as a MMSD school board membeR?
I grew up in the Black community of South Madison, where my family and community was very committed to ensure that our children received a good education, while embracing the richness of our community. I can proudly say that if there was a program for Black children and children of color, I was in it: The African American Academy, Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, the first cohort of the UW-Madison’s PEOPLE program. My grandmother, Sadie Pearson, arrived in Madison in the early 60’s. I have benefited from generational wisdom and experience, including years of work as an activist and advocate for public schools.
Professionally, I worked at the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County from 2005 to 2013. I worked directly with elementary, middle, and high school students and their families from ethnically diverse backgrounds, and other community organizations. I taught a host of programs including, but not limited to: language programs, reading programs, computer literacy and safety programs, and life skill programs. I created with other staff, a program that transported children with housing insecurities to school each day. Later, I had responsibilities of securing funding, ensuring transparency, data analysis and auditing for grants and programs, I have been on the outside looking in. My expertise comes from having lived experiences, I do not have to rely on being part of committees or task forces.
I know what it was like to be left out of classroom learning communities as students partnered with their friends for academic projects. I was on my own while the other students had each other as resources to brainstorm and develop their academic ideas.
I know what it is like to feel as though I was “bad” and needed to be “fixed” when I was told as a child that the way I expressed myself in language was “not correct.”
I have institutional memories of black students in our high schools making school improvements to climate and culture; what decades of young people of color like and dislike when it comes to reading, math or science; how to lead groups of ethnically diverse students in exploring what outside factors impacted them emotionally and what their social lives were like.
I know what makes students of color fascinated in schoolwork and what makes them want to pass notes during lessons. I know what it is like to consistently be in the lives of the homeless youth in our schools - not because it was my position, or job, but because I saw how tired, hungry and scared the children in my community were.
I know what worked in the Black communities initiatives to help us read at grade level using books that we were all into, what it felt like to finally get an A on a math test, what attitudes the adults had when they taught us, what programs disappeared because someone moved out of the area, or how some people worked out ways for us to only focus on our creativity.
Part of my expertise is in being a parent learning through the IEP process - not understanding the process, scheduling and meeting with my son’s teachers, even when we were all at a loss, brainstorming solutions and watching them work with my son.
In short, I see my community in a holistic way. My own experiences matter, because I have many shared experiences with black, latinx, and Hmong youth today. These are the experiences that are needed to shape board policies.