The year 2020 was unquestionably a year of learning, a year of facing difficult truths, and most importantly a year that has inspired long overdue change. More and more light is being shed on many of the injustices that still run rampant in our society. This notion presents everyday individuals with the choice of either taking a stand to promote change, or simply being complacent by reverting to silence. As a district, Rutherford Public Schools recognizes the importance of a community that promotes equity and took this year as an opportunity to instill concrete changes to ensure progress and acceptance. One of the changes was the formation of the Equity Committee, a district-wide initiative.
What exactly is this? What are the goals? The motives? Here is the committee’s mission statement:
Our mission is to create a multi-faceted organization that will work with students, staff, and the community in order to develop equitable approaches towards education. We want to continuously develop our advocacy groups within each building, ensure equitable curriculum & varied teaching styles across disciplines, increase professional development, and also provide multiple platforms for students to express themselves; all of which is done to ultimately create a school district that celebrates diversity and inclusion in an authentic manner.
The ‘Equity Committee’ has teams in each building developing comprehensive professional development for staff, student-based opportunities, and have become beacons of advocacy and equitable changes within their building. Teachers and students alike share the incredible opportunity to unite while learning about and discussing current social injustices in a safe and purposeful environment, discussing ‘real-life’ scenarios that deal with race, and ultimately, build the foundation for appropriate student activism.
The committee promotes education and the students and teachers involved uphold the notion that age has no factor in the willingness to learn about issues that are incredibly relevant to all aspects of life. Members of the equity committee are eager to work towards the common goal that the diversity and representation in the curriculum of Rutherford Schools should match the diversity of the student body. The injustices that are discussed have long been present within our society, and Rutherford understands that it’s time to be accountable in an effort to grow as a community.
Here at Rutherford High School, many young activists meet on a monthly basis for a program called Hear Our Voices, a student-based extension of the “Equity Committee”. Mr. Bergen, Mrs. Bowden, Ms. Gagis, Dr. Lacey, and Mr. Frazier (RHS committee leaders) shape the direction of the program, however, allow the spark of energy to come from the students! They do an incredible job at prompting appropriate and relevant discussion, offering input, and providing insight into the conversations that occur. Students are working to educate themselves as well as raise awareness about the past and present injustices in society, in order to cultivate new and progressive responses. Rutherford High School students and teachers are continuing the conversation on equity and diversity to ensure inclusion and representation in Rutherford and beyond for the upcoming generations.
Personally, as a member of Hear our Voices, I feel this club is such a unique and incredible opportunity that everyone should take part in. I have not only discovered a community of students and teachers who want to make a difference, but I have also been further educated on issues I feel so strongly about. I have never once felt belittled for my age and this club has given me confidence that anyone, myself included, can make a difference to change society for the better. I have learned that education has no limit, along with the fact that it is everyone’s job, despite their race, gender, background, or age to speak up and unite. Strength lies in our unity and I am confident that we can and will make a difference.
Have you noticed injustices in society that you wish to address/change? Do you want to make a difference? Think about joining the equity committee!
Contact Mrs. Bowden or Mr. Bergen if you are interested in joining Hear Our Voices
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