10 Years: A Prepared Journey



Born of the Civil Rights & Black Power movements, I went on to graduate from an HBCU. By birth, education, and calling I am prepared to speak up for racial justice, educational equity, and when necessary interrupt systems that disrupt them.

Ten years ago, I had an unforgettable conversation with our then head of lower school, Sandy Shaller. He was quite distraught over the fact that an upper school student, who began their indy school journey in the lower division, was now being asked to leave. Sandy and I talked at length about the rewards and challenges an independent school poses for students of color and the narrow road their families find themselves navigating for an elite education. It has been ten years since he declared, “I wish I had a bible I could give parents of color for the journey.”. I left that meeting tasking myself and others to provide a resource that would prepare the way for families of color.

Resources Independent School Education, also known as RIISE or  4RIISE, celebrates its 10th year building bridges between families of color and the culture of independent schools. We have not done it alone. Families of color lift up our community by taking the chance on applying and enrolling in independent schools as they prepare the next generation of doers and changemakers. The commitment of member schools supports their goal of institutional equity, inclusion, and diversity.

We are prepared to assist families with awareness and access to viable ways to achieve social-emotional balance in predominantly white and affluent academic institutions. Our rich network of thought-leaders and stakeholders are also prepared to support and elevate academic and developmental excellence with PK-12 independent school education.

We’ve learned a lot over the past 10 years. Revelations, both heart-warming and sobering, have helped RIISE assemble ten key strategies for embracing opportunities and challenging systems for overall success. To celebrate, we are revealing ‘What We’ve Learned’ in 10-short blog posts (starting April 5) at 4RIISE.org.

We are super honored and thrilled to walk with you. Thank you for your engagement and advocacy.

Ten years. It’s just the start!


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2.27 | Honest Race Talk: How Do we Overcome the Fears, with Dr. Derald Wing Sue


Horace Mann School invites you to…

Dr. Derald Wing Sue, Honest Race Talk: How Do We Overcome the Fears?

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Horace Mann School

231 West 246th Street

6:30 – 8:30 PM

Open to Independent School Educators and Families

More from Dr. Derald Wing Sue on his book Race Talk And The Conspiracy Of Silence https://youtu.be/Uc7l6sUvaYQ

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Indy School Parents Who Write!

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The Horace Mann School Parents Association Book Club along with the Black Parents Union (BPU) was excited to welcome one of their own, Ginger McKnight-Chavers P’18, whose daughter is a senior at the school. Ginger is a native of Dallas, Texas where she attended Ursuline Academy before moving on to Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service and Harvard Law School. She was a Kathryn Gurfein Writing Fellow at Sarah Lawrence College and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Ginger’s book, In the Heart of Texas, was released in the Fall of 2016. In the Heart of Texas won the 2016 USA Best Book Award for African-American fiction. Today, the former entertainment attorney currently is a contributing writer at ShareBlue Media and an instructor at Sarah Lawrence College’s Writing Institute, while working on two additional book project and blogging for the Huffington Post and the TexPatch. She resides in Westchester County, New York with her husband, daughter and their overweight West Highland White Terrier. Read More »

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Square Peg, Round Hole: enrollment and independent school fit

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There’s not one email from my head of school that I won’t open. He is innovative and I appreciate his leadership style. His most recent communication was an invitation for families to re-enroll. The invitation declared the school’s recommitment to the ongoing success of the educational program, as well as empathy for the sacrifices many families make to enroll their children.

This will be our twelfth year signing an annual contract to partner with our school. You could say we’ve been fortunate to have found the right fit. Disclaimer, ‘the right fit’ does not mean ‘the perfect fit’. To be totally candid, we’ve had a couple of ‘WTF’ moments over the years. Yet, it is our expectations, visibility, voice, and more importantly our school’s response to these moments that have made it a good fit for us.

RIISE recognizes families of color have uniquely tough decisions to make about the types of independent school communities they want their children to develop in. How do you know if a particular school will be a good fit? Can that change over time? And, if so what are your options?

Recently, I had two very passionate conversations about fit with two different mothers in two very different situations, or so it would seem. Mom # 1 is really anxious about upcoming decision notices. Mom #2 feels the same. The difference between them is that the first mom wants IN praying that at least one, or perhaps multiple schools will make her family an offer. The second mom’s child is already enrolled in an independent school which is not a good fit -she wants OUT, also waiting for offers from other schools.

This post is not intended to dissuade families of color from applying, enrolling or re-enrolling at indy schools. But, it is intended to encourage good inquiry and assessment in your search for academic and developmental excellence.

Consider the possibilities: Read More »

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A Few Things To Do Now That Admissions Is Closing

So what should applicants do and not do? We caught up briefly with Jenna King, admissions director at Riverdale Country School and asked her to share some of her insight…

What should parents/applicants be focusing on now?

  • research follow up questions now to prepare for offers i.e., transportation, after-school programs
  • don’t get too focused on a particular school, keep options open
  • be ready to respond to questions about affordability and deposit
  • offers can create a frenzy but take time to read contracts
  • keep things in perspective, stay positive

First choice/top choice letters?

  • depends on schools-some want, some don’t be careful.

What does the work schedule of the admission office look like now?

  • days, nights and weekends!
  • so try not to call the office to find out if items are missing from your file
  • online application platforms indicate what is still outstanding
  • as well, many schools will call if something is missing

Thanks, Jenna! We appreciate all of the hard work our admission teams put into building community.

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Monkey, Better Known as MONKADEE

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A favorite of her toddler years, brown limbs flopping as she held it tightly around the mid-section, she affectionately called it ‘Monkadee’. I had no reason to question my daughter’s choice of a Lovie because for her it was everything comfy and cute. However, I would have had a reason to question dressing her in a shirt that said ‘cutest monkey in the park’, because I simply would not have done it! This brings me to the Swedish mom who vehemently defended her choice to allow her child to model a sweatshirt emblazoned ‘coolest monkey in the jungle’.

Surely, my heightened instinct to protect my black child at all costs, from both physical and emotional harm is universal. Clearly, not. I was absolutely shocked by this mom’s choice to defend the appropriateness of the H&M sweatshirt as “no big deal”. I wondered if a continental divide shielded her from the racist associations of black & brown people as animals. So I decided to instant message my cousin in Sweden. Perhaps she could affirm this mother’s ignorance as a result of some utopian disposition. Much to my dismay, my Swedish cousin confirmed my suspicion that there is no shortage of white supremacist attitudes in a supposedly socially progressive place like Sweden. My bi-racial cousin shared the popular disbelief and anger towards this mom for not protecting her child, our children, from historic and clearly contemporary coded racist imagery.

That sweet little boy, that king of all kings, was his mom’s alarming reaction merely a way to secure future financial gains for her son’s modeling career? If in her position I wouldn’t care how many coins were tossed my way, I could not imagine selling my child out. Could any mother of a black or brown child justify it? If as parents we are not speaking out and fighting against racist imagery and biased systems, I really question our ability to parent successfully.

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New Year & New Lunch With Gina

The response to the upcoming NYC Book Discussion & Signing has been incredible. If you are a parent, educator, administrator, or organization and you care about black boys you need to get the book The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys, and if in the NY area join us on 1/23 for discussion and signing – https://discussionsigningwwwtbb.eventbrite.com. Two of the co-authors, Ali Michael and Eddie Moore Jr. recently join us to talk about the book and its impact.

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12.11.17~Enrolled at a Hilltop school? Your invited: How Students of Color Navigate Independent Schools

Join Hilltop Schools for a panel discussion, How Students of Color Navigate Independent School Culture

Monday, December 11, 6:30 pm,  Horace Mann School – Recital Hall

Horace Mann’s Diversity Council, the Office for Identity, Culture, and Institutional Equity (ICIE) along with the Black Parents Union (BPU) present a RIISE panel discussion to explore the social norms students of color enrolled in independent schools navigate. 

Socialization Topics:

Managing friend groups
Classroom dynamics
The dating scene
Navigating Social Events
Academic achievement/College admissions
Equity & leadership
Identity & cultural exchange


Suggestions and tools will be shared in order to best take advantage of and mitigate the realities of cross-cultural socialization among students of color and their peers. This panel session is open to students grades 6-12, as well as parents and guardians from all Divisions. Light refreshments will be provided. 

Please RSVP


Panelists: Rashidah Bowen White-Town School, Akim David St. Omer-Ethical Culture Fieldston School, Jamie-Jin Lewis-former E.D. Border Crossers, and Student Panelists with excerpts from NYT Bestseller, The Hate You Give, by Angie Thomas. Moderator: Gina Parker Collins, RIISE.


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1.23.18~The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys—NYC Book Discussion Signing

1.23.18 NYC WWWTBB Discussion Signing

The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys.

We are thrilled to welcome the book’s co-editors: author, activist, and speaker Eddie Moore, Jr.; author, educator & researcher, Ali Michael, and book contributors like parent & diversity practitioner, Orinthia Swindell.~

The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys hopes to teach three main principles: How to develop learning environments that help Black boys feel a sense of belonging, nurturance, challenge, and love at school; How to change school culture so that Black boys can show up in the wholeness of their selves; How to overcome unconscious bias and forge authentic connections with your Black male students. This event will provide authentic conversation and resources for White educators and for anyone who works to challenge bias.

RSVP —https://discussionsigningwwwtbb.eventbrite.com

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The Point of It All


The point is they’ve developed in ways beyond my wildest expectations. Seriously, they blow my mind! Although I credit my family’s love and guidance, an independent school education has had a significant impact on my children’s progress. Since lower school, my 11th-grade daughter and my 8th-grade son have continued to remind us the reason for it all.

Before I rant about how thankful I am for their dynamic experiences I have to acknowledge the challenges too. I do this for those considering, applying and enrolled in the culture of predominantly white preK-12 institutions of high academic rigor and access, like independent schools. When we expand and push against boundaries we must expect challenges. How we overcome them will determine how successful we are at getting to the point.

What is it that we want? What is the point? Is it to give our children a competitive academic advantage through a selective & rigorous education? Is it access to resources and people that can help them achieve their (our) aspirations? Or, is it to develop a higher level of social and emotional intelligence that encourages compassion and activism. This last consideration may not be top of mind, making it an underrated expectation. Social consciousness is increasingly becoming a necessary character trait for a society that considers an uncertain future.

You may be wondering if the ‘point of it all’ is worth building the emotional muscle to overlook, and maybe overcome experiences like stereotype threat, implicit/explicit bias, and microagressions . The point is we face these challenges in various other settings and institutions like public education, healthcare,  higher ed, and the workplace. What makes many independent school communities uniquely inspiring is the intellectual capacity, stated right in the mission statement to be more. When the will is there, the ability is resourced to acknowledge, reflect, and act on making our schools more socially and emotionally intelligent to positively transform both community and culture. We salute many of our member schools for the innovative and courageous ways they are creating structure and space for this to happen. Big ups to parent leaders too!

I can’t think of a better time to be a part of an independent school community that believes and aligns with what we value. Let’s remember the point of it all as we go through the admission process, enroll, and re-enroll (done every time we sign the contract), especially this time of the year when we reflect on and count our blessings. An independent school education will be among the many blessings my family counts this year.


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