February 6 | Parent Viewing & Talkback – I’m Not Racist…Am I?


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[Newsletter] RIISE MID-SUMMER MUSINGS: Admissions & Martha’s Vineyard



Missing summer already?
It seems as soon as we get into the swing of things, it begins to fade, fast.  

Fact is, summer is actually five days longer than winter.
Then why does it feel so short?

Perhaps, there too many misleading markers:
~ the end and the start of a new school year
~ the beginning and end of summer Friday’s
~ then, there’s Memorial & Labor Day

But, even if we go with Labor Day, we have 
49 days of summer left!
And, RIISE has a few cool events happening.
We hope you can join us!

want to read more? click here.

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August 9 & 10 [RIISE MV 2018] Sistas on The RIISE + Brunch & Beach

Thursday, August 9, 11 am – 2 pm
YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard

Sistas On The RIISE will nourish and encourage all Marthas to embrace their resilience and vulnerability; creative spirit and sheer will; their ability to heal and inspire the future.

The namesake story of Martha’s Vineyard is not definitive, so we’re choosing to go with a self-serving account. It is one that nourishes and acknowledges over a century of Sistahood on this magical island.

During the 19th century, our Martha came running towards freedom bringing her resilience and power. Here, she could be her phenomenal self finally letting her crown go and her supernatural flow. 

She still blooms and thrives raising up generations who find solace in her arms. 

This is our Martha and she is yours too! Join us for Sistas On The RIISE!

What you should expectA diverse collective of Sistas of influence, style, and grace who will be exalted and pampered with:
*radical self-care, beauty, & affirmation
*restorative mindfulness, music & movement
*delicious fruit smoothie & nutrition station
*Sista Swag Bags too!

Sistas On The RIISE gathers a group of diverse and contemporary women, Boomers to Gen Z, to focus on celebration, empowerment, and wellness. It’s an inspiring and well-deserved moment embracing the potential of the female spirit; health and beauty; resilience and vulnerability; leadership and creative spirit.

Sistas On The RIISE will affirm and support today’s woman -her power, challenges, and intersectionality within today’s society. The event welcomes our wellness practitioners, thought-leaders, and creatives affirming and supporting today’s woman -her power, challenges, and intersectionality in today’s society. Sista Swag Bags delight!

**Boomers to Gen Z’ers are welcome! Dress comfortably.

Gina Parker Collins, RIISE Founder & Dr. LaShonda Barnett, historical author of Jam on The Vine & Friends

RIISE MV 2018 Events supported by Vibrant Health, Riverdale Country School, Horace Mann School, Westover School, Juice Press, Earthmade Skincare, Radical Dreams

Another RIISE MV Event! Click the link below for more details
RIISE Brunch & Beach: Legacy Wealth on MV – Friday, 8.10, 2p @The Winnetu featuring Legacy Speaker Dr. Pamela Jolly, speaker & author -The NarrowRoad: A Guide to Legacy Wealth

Accommodations & Travel

Read More »

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Sista Spells Abracadabra!

louander_600artist: Elon Collins

What woman of color didn’t blush as Mehgan Markle ascended the British monarchy like only a Sista could. She defied racial and social status designed for her. Heck, she may have even single-handedly saved the monarchy by redefining convention and inserting her identity as feminist and woman of color.

And, what about brilliant, powerful, and beautiful Sista Valerie Jarrett? Her response to public racial taunts was classy. ‘I’m okay’ she said. Protected by her networks, she worries about those who don’t have a similar privilege.

Thus far, I’ve been emphatic about the use of Sista to reference women of color, in particular, Black women. I love this affirmation. It instinctively and intuitively distills sister. It affirms gender, diasporic and current connections.

It is collective energy often seen as MAGIC.

Increasing visibility and power, WOC are leading movements that redefine culture. They are winning politically, in Hollywood, and yes, you guessed it in independent schools too.

For over ten years I’ve watched my own daughter and other indy school girls of color develop into impressive young women rising to be seen and heard in independent schools.

It is no small task.

How do they shine through intersections of race, culture, gender, sexuality, and socio-economics?

They make it look magical.

How do these young women show up daily and excel in rigorous, elite and predominantly white academic spaces?

With courage, resilience, and brilliance.

But, not without some cost.

Quietly or loudly (don’t confuse with anger) they persist and resist in ways that require nothing but pure magic. Read More »

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Post # 7: What We’ve Learned. Independent School Educators.


Over the years we’ve experienced how the selective process of independent school teacher recruitment benefits overall classroom dynamics, curriculum, and student outcomes. Independent school educators tend to be passionate and empowered about teaching. They come prepared, not just with degrees but areas of expertise. They are enthusiastic and many share their outside interests through after-school programs like sports, theater, STEM, and social justice. I have had the pleasure of meeting many dynamic educators teaching at independent schools.

On Saturdays in early September, our middle and upper school hosts Parents Day. It mirrors what the school year will be like for students getting to class on time, approaching classroom curriculum and dynamics. The expectation is that teachers will wow us with their expertise in a subject and communication skills, reassuring parents that we’ve made the absolute right decision in investing in the school.

I often walk away from that day feeling confident, energized and exhausted. And, there are moments when teachers really wow us as parents. We envy the early learning environments teachers provide for our young children, and we are totally impressed by the level of engagement teachers offer our college prep students.

Families of color have extra expectations about teachers and classroom dynamics. Here are the ones that come top of mind. It is our hope they will inform other parents of color partnering with our schools.

* We want to see more faculty of color. They’re scarce. There are a number of reasons including lack of historical representation and salary. Yes, public school teachers are paid more than private (but, there are other valued benefits), unless there is a leadership role attached to it. Faculty of color is beneficial for all children.

*We also want to stand in solidarity with our valued faculty and administrators of color as we face similar experiences in predominantly white spaces.

*We want to make sure teachers see our kids for who they are. We want them to control the room for stereotype threat, microaggression, and invisibility.

*We want our kids to develop student-teacher connections that encourage independence, curiosity, and access to continued academic and leadership opportunities.

*We expect open door policy and accountability too.

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Post #6: What We’ve Learned. Parent Development.


As RIISE celebrates a decade of inspiring families of color to experience an independent school education, post #5: ‘What We’ve Learned’, has gone way back. This 2009, repost reminds parents of color and parents of children of color to show up whenever and however they can in independent school settings.

We know how important parent development and networking can be to an independent school journey. Staying in the loop about what is, and is not going on can be very supportive of children as they achieve academic success in the classroom and as they navigate socializing outside of the classroom.

Get it in where you can fit it in. But, show up. Perhaps, it is attending a presentation with educators on important academic programs or research. Maybe, it is going to a conference like POCC (your school may host you), or regional events like The Young Men of Color Symposium and Young Womyn of Strength Conference. Or, it may mean developing a parent affinity space and attending RIISE events. They are all powerful tools that can share perspectives and add value to the journey and to our schools. Read More »

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Post #5: What We’ve Learned. Many Journeys.

elon bamboo japan
Kyoto, Japan ’17

I almost lost my job because of travel.  Accompanying my then fifth-grade daughter on a school trip to the Monteverde Friends School in Costa Rica was not up for discussion. Could I let her miss out on global and ideas exchange with peers in Central America? No. So, along with other parents, I accepted the invitation to go on that school trip too. And, I kept my job!

As a lifestyle-collective of families of color and independent schools, we work together to raise up the next generation of student leaders, change makers, and influencers. As a result, RIISE often acknowledges the academic, social and emotional journey of our young scholars. But, we also have to recognize travel as another journey many students take at our schools.

As I reflect on the travel my daughter has had because of an independent school (Costa Rica, New Zealand, Japan), I am struck by the benefits of domestic and global travel: social & communication skills, tolerance for uncertainty, and real-life education.

Three-day weekends in Miami, The Hamptons, or far off exotic places for spring break can be the norm for many independent school families. So, this makes curriculum-based school travel for all students fantastic and equitable.

Here are a few things to keep in perspective when it comes to independent school travel:

1.) Before graduating make sure your child experiences travel with a social justice school trip to Detroit, for example, or exchange abroad. It will broaden your child’s horizon.

2.) Don’t assume you can’t afford it. The cost may be scaled by your school based on affordability.

3.) Don’t be afraid to let your child, at an appropriate age, venture into the world without you. Other benefits and insight of a travel curriculum, like cultural and language immersion, can add depth to education.

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Post #4: What We’ve Learned. Independent defined.

Kerry Marshall’s SOB, SOB


def: self-governing: not requiring or relying on something else: a person of independent means

To be enrolled in an independent school as a family of color is the very essence of independence. It is the act of being ambitious and brave. It is an act of non-conformity.

The collective desired outcome is that our children-our greatest investment will take full advantage of the excellent educational opportunities independent schools offer. We believe the future to be bright for our kids, equipped with knowledge and experiences to have better control of their lives, to be self-sufficient, compassionate human beings who add value to communities.

Independent is also defined as showing a desire for freedom.
Many families of color have long felt that a quality education is the only way to free oneself from the many social justice ills marginalized people face. However, it is no protection from the knowledge of the white gaze in predominantly white spaces challenging our very beings, in search of excellence in education.

An independent school education is spectacular! I can’t say that enough. I know because as enrolled parents it continues to be a worthwhile investment we are making with our children of color. Though, I don’t know if that would be the case -if we could escape the judgment of just being, if we did not speak to the ability to be oneself, not invisible, but recognized and acknowledged for the unique perspective and valuable culture we bring.

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Post #3: What We’ve Learned. Getting In.

family latino

This is a perfect time of the year to begin to research independent schools. To be truthful, the earlier you start the better. Kick it off with a complimentary 30-minute RIISE consultation, and attend various Spring admission events.

Having spent over a decade in an independent school and through the observations of others with RIISE, we’ve learned that ‘getting in’ is never really fair or equal. If you stare at it long enough you’ll begin to observe the harsh realities. But, don’t be disheartened, push ahead with confidence. It is worth it. Just keep in mind that the real competition is not an individual, per se, but a system that must thrive.

In its short run at Lincoln Center, the satirical play, Admissions promotes nervous laughter from a mainly white audience, who observe an all-white cast offer a safer space to decry the pernicious influence of race and class.

Ironically, the features that make an independent school desirable are the ones that make it tough to get in. For example, small class sizes narrow the chances of getting in. Other desired features like access to leading and innovative curriculum, resources, faculty, impressive physical space, and college prep, present another barrier to entry, cost.

Although independent schools offer significant financial aid awards to attract capable, talented and high-achieving students whose families could not afford it otherwise, it is not enough to create equitable and inclusive communities. There are families of color that do not need financial support to attend an independent school. But, as a result of other historic and systemic injustices, most do.

The intersections of race, wealth gaps, and the high cost of tuition challenge equity and inclusion at independent schools. School missions appear to be meritocratic, but privilege often prevails.

We are lured by the promise of academic and future successes, so we persist by investing our cultural and financial capital in predominantly white, pK-12, institutions to help secure better social and economic outcomes for generations to come. Independent schools are flawed but overall they are transformative spaces that most families of color don’t regret.

Perhaps, the opinions in yesterday’s Sunday Review, How To Level The College Playing Field, can transform independent schools too.

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Post #2: What We’ve Learned. Preparing for College.

Whoo-hoo! My daughter is completing her junior year at an independent school, and, I am absolutely thrilled to help support her search for a great college. Over the years, we’ve received sage advice from those who’ve already grabbed the brass ring. Here are three things we’ve learned that should take the edge off of applying to colleges.

1. Hands down, an independent school more than adequately prepares students for the competitive, and depending on the college, highly selective admissions process.

2. College Placement Offices run a tight ship in order to post impressive college destination lists. This does not mean that students and parents don’t have the final say. What it does mean is that independent schools greatly benefit from getting students into great colleges.

3. There will be less anxiety for all if we let our children steer their own ship. It is up to them to choose an HBCU (a great episode of Black-ish), a small liberal arts college, a highly-selective art school, a university a thousand miles away from home, or one that’s in the heart of a city and has no core curriculum.

I should add another. Standardized tests still matter. Unless the school is test-optional early introduction and preparation can only help.

*Check out our affiliate offer from TestRocker!


Of course, there is more to consider when looking at colleges. You’ll find this throw-back post helpful!

**After posting this blog, the NYT Opinion section published this article How to Level the College Playing Field, adding a much-needed voice to the wealth gap and affording college.






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