Providing supports for BIPOC students
In her semester at Alzar School, Rabi and the other three BIPOC students in her semester faced many instances of racism and discrimination. Coming from a predominantly white independents school, she was used to this, even though it isn’t something anyone should be used to. Towards the end of the semester, the students came together and further discussed their semester experience. When they did that, Rabi felt empowered to create change. They gave the administration a list of improvements and changes that would make the Alzar School a safe and welcoming environment for BIPOC students. One idea on the list of suggestions was an affinity group between alumni and students in order to provide students with the additional support needed to go through their semester.
Implementation of Project
“Connection” launched on February 28th and since then have had many impactful meetings and conversations. The affinity group met once or twice a month. Things were challenging for Rabi in balancing meetings, school, and the rest of her life. The Spring 2021 semester affinity group a bit chaotic because it was the first semester and the team started a bit late.
“There were a lot of moments when I had to come up with ideas on the spot because we had not planned ahead of time. It was always a little last minute that meetings were planned and it was hard to get everyone to be able to come.” – Rabi Michael-Crushshon
There were seven alumni that participated in the affinity group meetings, all who helped Rabi by taking notes and planning meetings. The team used the grant money as well as additional funds to send a care package to the students that included snacks, notes and other goods.
Results of Project
As a result of the past two years while living through a pandemic, Rabi has begun to understand how important community is:
“Even when you can not see people in person, it is so special to know that someone has your back. It has been so nice to meet BIPOC students and alumni from all over the country. I have already met so many incredible people and learned so much from them. They have all helped and supported me as we work to create this affinity group. I can’t speak too much to the affect this group has had on the students, but I hope that it gave them a sense of community and a feeling of belonging.” – Rabi Michael-Crushshon
There are several objectives of the group. In predominantly white independent schools, even semester schools like Alzar School, it is especially important for BIPOC students to have this space. In future semesters, the goal is that Connection will meet 2-3 times monthly, with the group coming together over Zoom (twice with students and once just as alumni). This environment is a place where students can come for help and support but also a place for students to just let go and really be themselves.
The goal for this upcoming school year, 2021-2022, is to allow students to suggest lessons that they are interested in that alumni will teach. This allows for students to learn from other young BIPOC people who may have more experience or different perspectives than themselves.
Additionally, this space provides an opportunity for BIPOC young people to create a community where they all share common interests like enjoying the outdoors.
Another objective of this group is to create mentor/mentee groups. The goal is that as we grow the groups will get bigger but right now each group has one alumni and one student. These groups give students someone they can contact whenever they need someone to talk to while they are attending Alzar School, as well as once they leave.
“I hope that through this group students will feel comfortable and encouraged to have difficult conversations, be themselves and learn things that they might not have otherwise at Alzar or their sending schools. I also hope this group will empower students to push for change within their other schools and communities.” – Rabi Michael-Crushshon