It is at the core of NYCLA’s belief system that maintaining a persistent and systemic focus on equity, diversity and social justice be a prerequisite for all that we do. Our commitment to school leadership development and support is in service of students, particularly the most vulnerable. As such, NYCLA continuously develops its own practitioner skills and reflective practices to ensure that facilitators and coaches are aware of the latest research and promising practices in the field of educational equity.This information is informing the ways in which NYCLA implements our four part equity and social justice agenda—particularly in examining and strengthening our school leadership programs, tools, products and services from an equity and social justice lens.

Earlier this year, NYCLA staff participated in a comprehensive, two-day session designed to deepen our thinking about the role racism plays in the institutional disparities in hiring, retention, education, and community interaction. This session was led by Glenn Singleton, author of “Courageous Conversations” and founder of Pacific Education Group.

Fueled by a desire to take the conversation further, NYCLA developed a four-part strategy to address our approach to equity and social justice within and across our own organization as well in our client engagement.  This past month, three NYCLA staff members – Dr. Ruby Fernandez, Senior Director of Leadership Development, Sonia Bu, NYCLA Coach and Facilitator and Veronica Benavides, a Harvard Doctoral Candidate and NYCLA Resident –attended the National Summit for Courageous Conversation to further our organizational and client work. This summit brought together nearly 800 leaders to engage in a deepened conversation about systemic racism and its impact on opportunity and achievement for all students.

It provided a space for Ruby, Sonia and Veronica to discuss with leading national educators and equity-focused practitioners the challenges and successes of working towards equity for all students. Discussion topics included: models for student equity leadership, the educational crisis for black males, and issues of racial disparity in special education. Furthermore Veronica served as Educator of Ceremonies. In this role, she shared her own personal experience, displayed public learning and vulnerability, and tracked the arch of learning for the conference.  Notes Veronica, “At the summit, I was reminded that Courageous Conversations first and foremost require courage. I commit to having more courage and to bringing conversations about race to my professional and personal life, to examining my own biases and prejudices, and to staying engaged in the fight for racial equity.”

The lessons and experiences that Veronica, Ruby and Sonia shared will impact NYCLA’s programming with a social justice lens. We will also apply key learnings into our practices and strategies for addressing issues of equity and social justice into our recruitment, training and management of NYCLA staff. Additionally, this experience has better equipped Ruby and Veronica to lead our New York City Alumni Network’s focus on highlighting and promoting strategies for better serving the city’s boys of color.

We look forward to continuing the dialogue within our organization and furthering our equity work with clients across the country.