EARLY STEPS Parent
Alicia Carlos Nelson and her daughter Twyla were lost to us on TWA Flight 800 in July 1996. Alicia was a writer, a teacher, and an EARLY STEPS parent. Her contribution to our newsletter in 1992 is still relevant today. and we post this in her and Twyla’s honor.
I never considered the notion that I might be in partnership with the independent school that is educating my child. I suppose I simply felt that school was a place that my daughter went to learn and a place that I participated in whenever called upon. However, with a little consideration I quickly determined that my supposition was the product of erroneous thinking and that indeed my daughter’s school and I are in partnership, for we are both committed to her education. Then I was left with the task of determining what that meant in real terms.
After about a week of pondering the subject and a lot of introspection, I came to realize that I really didn’t know how to form a partnership, but that I had certain expectations that had to be met before I could shake hands with an independent school and say: “Yes, we’re in this thing together.” Having reached this conclusion, I did what I always do when I’m confused and try to organize my thoughts: I made a list. I would like to share it with your. It is entitled “Ten Expectations.”
1. I expect for the institution to recognize that sending my child to an independent school was a difficult decision, since I knew that when place in a predominately white academic setting, most children of color suffer a loss of self-esteem. In light of this, I think that the institution should be aware that I have fears that need to be assuaged.
2. I expect for the independent school to know that in the early years my daughter’s chances of thriving in a predominately white school are enhanced if she is placed in a classroom with other students of color, and tat it is essential to her well-being that she sees people of color in positions of power at the school.
3. I expect for the people in power to recognize that I am grateful for my daughter’s financial aid award, and that sometimes my gratitude may get in the way of voicing my concerns, so I anticipate being encouraged to speak out.
4. I expect that if I do speak out, and my concerns are that there may be some overt, insidious, or unintentional racial bias in a particular situation, people in power won’t discount my concerns or label me a troublemaker.
5. I expect for the independent school to realize that race is not the only thing that might deter my child and I from involving ourselves in all school activities. There is also the issue of class. I am a working class, single parent and may not be able to fit the cost of a school fundraiser into my budget. Because the school is aware of this, I expect the school to schedule family events in which my daughter and I can share what we do have to offer.
6. I expect the independent school to be committed to multiculturalism in the curriculum. It is important for my daughter and her classmates to learn that people from all cultures have helped to shape the world as we know it.
7. I expect the independent school to be sensitive to issues of race, class, and gender and know that this sensitivity requires ongoing training for faculty and administrators.
8. I expect the independent school to take as a given that my daughter’s ethnicity is not a hindrance to her intellectual prowess.
9. I expect the independent school to welcome my daughter’s differentness and realize that it adds to the institution’s vibrancy.
10. I expect the independent school to be committed to recruiting students of color and not to use my daughter or others like her as token examples of good will.
As you can see from my list, my expectations are great. At least that’s the feeling I had after writing them down, but I don’t feel they’re unreasonable. Instead, I think that meeting these “Ten Expectations” or striving to address them in integral to building partnerships between independent schools and most parents of color.
EARLY STEPS Alumni
Thoughts From The End Of My High School Years
Carah Shakai Lucas-Hill
Nightingale-Bamford Class of 2000
In lower school I remained attached to the EARLY STEPS Program, going to parent meetings, and even parties for all the children in the program. I was even introduced to my first boyfriend and hamburger date, David Hazelwood. Although there was only one other child of color in my kindergarten class, Neri, I did not notice the vast difference between my classmates and me. Neri and I clicked immediately, and our families have remained close. As we entered middle school Neri and I would always have sleepovers, be invited to parties and country houses in the Hamptons. However, through all of the affection the girls in my school seemed to show, I was still confused on what to make of it all. I knew that I might never have a country house in the Hamptons, or an eight-bedroom palace at a Park Avenue apartment. But for some reason some of my classmates were still interested in coming over to my house for playdates and having sleepovers. I knew that I was different and that Neri was different too. But being in this environment taught me that there are no differences or that the differences were colored enough so that they were not noticeable.
We both managed to make it through the rough years of middle school, and move on to upper school. In upper school there was so much work given that Neri and I grew apart, especially in ninth grade when she left the school. This was painful for both of us and made me look for strength in other things. My best friend for the past four years, Celene Menschel, was there for me trying to fill the empty void left by Neri’s departure. Celene and I talked almost every night before going to bed. This meant a lot to me.
In upper school I joined C.A.F.E., Cultural Awareness for Everyone. This is a diversity club at Nightingale formed to foster awareness of the different cultures within the school. The club helped to instill pride in my African ancestry, and has helped me to become stronger in who I am. Now as a high school graduate, I am so glad to be able to say that there have been so many people around to support me in all my efforts. I know that my mother, who is the head cheerleader in my corner, is proud also to have found someone like Jacqui to help her along the way.
I would like to end by saying thank you to everyone for their support, Jacqui, Neri, Mommy and Celene. Thanks to everyone who ever believed in me...I did it...finally! Lastly, to everyone, “know where you come from” because if you know where you come from, you’ll know where you’re going, and no one will be able to stop you.
EARLY STEPS Alumni Parent
Anita Martin-Williams, Parent of Town School Graduate Jamaal Williams
Reflecting on my past ten years working with the EARLY STEPS organization and its staff fills me with special emotions. As I looked and listened to my son at graduation, I could only thank my God and EARLY STEPS for helping me get to this point. There were a lot of other people that assisted in this quest, but EARLY STEPS put me on the path and God gave me the family, friends and assistance to make this journey.
EARLY STEPS Children- Poetry
I Want You To Know
I want you to know about a place where
flowers bloom all year. Where people of
different races, different places, different
faces, are all together
standing, playing, loving, forever.
Everyone is different
yet everyone’s the same.
Packer Collegiate Institute
A new world of people of love.
A new world of fairies that spill fairy dust of love to nations.
A new world of peace that lasts a life time!
A new world of love and love, peace and peace, people and people, nations to nations...
But families and friends can make a nation a better place to live in.
A Little Dreamer
I am a girl.
I am a dreamer.
I am dreaming about peace.
It will be beautiful.
I will succeed.
Peace is my purpose,
it is my duty.
I am a little dreamer.
The Nightingale-Bamford School
The Town School