Straight, No Chaser Chronicles

Girl Jumping Rope, Elizabeth Catlett

Girl Jumping Rope, Elizabeth Catlett

Let’s get right to it. The highly selective independent school admission process is enlightening and stressful! Within the past eleven years I’ve experienced it first-hand, twice. For the last eight, I’ve joined many RIISE Doer member families on their journey towards academic excellence. So, I know a thing or two about months of audition and competition that culminates with a mixture of euphoric exhaustion and cautionary fear.

Families on the other side of the admission process absolutely believe in and love promoting the virtues of this educational choice. What’s not to love? High academic standards and expectations; well resourced educators and facilities; access to a variety of high touch experiences and networks. It’s all here and it is all good. Now, here is where it can get a bit sticky, but I have to be straight with you. Are you ready?

It would be all sorts of wrong if I did not help you look around the bend on this road. It might even be considered negligent if I did not encourage dialogue and share some trade secrets with you.

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Early Learning—Oh my…the things we should do!

 It is all about preparing our learners early on! Today’s guest blogger, Sandra Harbison is a thought leader in guidance and counseling preparing learners for success. Thank you Sandra for inspiring young parents with this post!!




As parents and caretakers we ask ourselves, what can we do for our children?

From the time they are in utero, we should begin to prepare for that special person. Everyone remembers the doctor visits, vitamins, and healthy eating advice, but let’s not forget how to prepare baby for life as a child and into adulthood.  Yes, it begins now!

During pregnancy, we should listen to music, sing, and talk to the baby.  Many psychologists now believe that little ones can pick up on the voices they hear before birth.  This behavior also helps us feel less stressed.  This information should help us to understand that we are actually  the first nursery school teachers.

Once our children are born, we should begin to think about the type of personality they have and begin to nurture them. This is how children LEARN.


SPEECH                TOYS                    GAMES               TRIPS             MUSIC

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POCC/SDLC In Three Words



The People of Color Conference is the flagship of the National Association of Independent Schools’ commitment to equity and justice in teaching and learning.  The mission of the conference is to provide a safe space for leadership and professional development and networking for people of color and allies of all backgrounds in independent schools. 

Dreaming Out Loud: Waking Up to a New Era of Civil Rights

The Student Diversity Leadership Conference is a multiracial, multicultural gathering of upper school student leaders (grades nine – 12) from across the U.S. SDLC focuses on self-reflecting, forming allies, and building community.

POCC/SDLC took place the beginning of December in Atlanta.  We want to thank our friends for summing up their experiences in just three words. We hope it inspires and gets you stoked for 2017 RIISE Parent Power Conference: Parent as Partner this spring!

Tank Filled UpGloria Fernández-Tearte—Director of Diversity and Staff Development, Greenwich Academy

Emotional…Andre Robert Lee—Director & Producer | Film & TV, The Prep School Negro, I Am Not A Racist Am I

…Orinthia Swindell—Director of Equity & Inclusion, Brooklyn Friends School Read More »

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12/19—Join Riverdale Parents of Color Holiday Mixer!



All are welcome.

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Mom Tell All—About That School Tour

Vintage Women

 *this is good info for that interview you may not have had yet!

What was it like the day you arrived for the indy school tour?

I was excited, as I am with every tour, to see how the children function in their school environments and also see the facilities. I was running late for traffic related reasons but nothing in me made me panic as I feel at home in indy schools, like I belong here (alum of boarding school), my son belongs here. Know what your family deserves.

Traveling through the rain for two hours was difficult, but it had to be done.  If your late arrival is legitimate, just remain calm and carry on. I was made to feel quite welcome by the first administrator I met. His energy and welcoming spirit was everything I needed when I walked through the door.


What was the first thing that caught your attention once you settled into tour? 

My tour guide was quite boring and if I didn’t know any better, I would have lost interest. She offered very little information and I had to pull information out of her. I didn’t get the sense that she was trying to sell us on attending the school. I think she feels that she’s making sure we don’t get lost and she is there to answer questions if we have any and that’s it. If you do happen to get a poor tour guide, look beyond their performance and focus on the school itself and the important questions that you need answered.   


Did you have prepared questions? Did they change once you were on the tour? 

Schools should always look to evolve and stay current. It is vital to always have questions prepared that are geared towards how they are integrating these trends into their curriculum. We have entered into a time when coding, programming and robotics are now a necessity. My questions are always geared towards these hot topics and what emerging technologies the school has invested in. Examples of questions are: When does school begin coding? Is there a robotics program/lab? When do you begin homework and projects?(most tour guides provide this information but be prepared as mine did not) 
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Four Ways To Stay In Control of Admission Process


If you’ve been rocking out the independent school admission process for the last several months, then You Are A ROCK STAR! This competitive and subjective process is a roller coaster ride! But, what’s really cool is that you and your child threw both hands high in the air descending and ascending to the end. Bravo! But, the roller coaster ride is slowly winding down. Now what are you going to do?

The lull of waiting for a decision is generally when fear can set in. Some of our RIISE member families have expressed fears like: what will we do if we don’t get in? what if I lose my job?  how can we diminish the social and emotional costs families of color can experience once enrolled? —does any of this resonate with you? What are your fears?

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Lunch with Gina Podcast: Election ’16 What Kids Need Right Now—Empowerment

photo credit NYTimes

Listen to this inspiring and empowering podcast 


Are your kids as anxious as mine about the election? Discussions are happening in the classroom at indy schools, but what can we do at home to re-design a civics lesson gone terribly wrong.

Eva Vega-Olds Director of Community & Diversity at the Town School joins the podcast version of Lunch With Gina, helping us make the best of this unforgettable election cycle, day, and days to come to empower our kids to be active civic leaders.

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RIISE Above The Rest!


I had to borrow this quote from my nephew’s t-shirt because it’s in perfect alignment with how RIISE rocks. Having a growth mindset can inspire you to do what most won’t—contemplate and apply for an independent school education. It takes a certain amount of grit to consider and journey through the admission process.

Please understand, I am not suggesting that choosing this educational path somehow makes you better than the rest, though you may be accused of ‘thinking you are’. Instead, it means that your vision is big, and you are brave enough to break away from the status quo. No apologies necessary, particularly when it comes to educating our children. It’s okay to rise, as long as you get what you need to reach back and grab someone else’s hand.

Eleven years ago, I shared my last quarter projections with my boss at Meredith Corporation. It included a post script stating the number of hours I would need to be away from the office for the independent school admission process. I wasn’t sure what his response would be, but what I did know was that along the chain of command one of his bosses took time to get her children into an independent school. And, I was determined to do the same. Thanks Chuck for being flexible!

What does rising above the rest look like?

  • At the time, rising above the rest meant taking a risk with my employment: late mornings or early evenings dedicated to going on school tours, attending admission receptions, and showing up for school interviews in hopes, no guarantees, that my child(ren) would earn a seat in an independent school.

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Working at an Independent School as a Person of Color

"Akim St.Omer is a graduate of Prep For Prep, LREI and Boston College who has spent 
his career working in various educational organizations, from non-profits, universities, 
charter schools and most recently independent schools. He views his professional and 
personal work as intersectional. Akim aims to bring diverse perspectives to the table 
to achieve a more equitable society for the students he works with and the spaces that 
he inhabits."

Working at an Independent School as a Person of Color

The experiences of faculty and staff members of color often mirror that of students of color at independent schools. Our lives are inextricably linked. Our journeys are often similar. Here are four things that I as a faculty member of color strive to do every day to make sure all students, especially our students of color feel welcome and part of my school.

1) ​Every time I see a student of color I either compliment them on their hair or outfit or give them a fist bump or high five. This is intentional. Cultural signifying is valuable for kids of color at predominantly white schools since much of their existence can be rendered invisible as a result of the white dominant paradigm at these institutions. I always aim to acknowledge their existence and their cultural significance even in a small way.

2) I make sure that I bring up conversations about race and diversity among faculty, especially in places where those conversations may not take place. I believe that one of the roles of people of color at independent schools is to serve as an antiseptic light in the moments of darkness where race and diversity may not be present or discussed. By pushing for those conversations to occur, it creates a space where people can refine and develop a greater understanding for diverse views and perspectives.

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Open Letter to Educators

Dr. Starita Boyce Ansari is a philanthropic advisor, and more importantly the mother 
of a high achieving boy of color attending private school. This heart-wrenching letter 
to educators is a call to action we hope is answered.


Dear Educators,

The reflection of my soul is in the lyrics of Sam and Dave “When there is something wrong with my baby there is something wrong with me.  And if I know she is worried, I feel the same misery.” Do you feel the misery in our Black children?

Last week our son woke with salty tears drenching his chocolate cheeks.  He was in a state which I have never seen.  I frantically asked what happened. He replied: “When Trump says he wants to make America great again he wants us to go back to the days when people were spitting on Ruby Bridges.”  I froze not knowing what to say.  He continued: “Mommy I am scared.”  I held him tight, not to comfort him, but to calm my fears.  I told him that will never happen.  I witnessed a transformation in my son that I have never seen; as if all the life had been taken out of him.  He wailed:   “It is happening.  We are treated differently.  Nobody is stopping the police from killing us, because nobody cares.”  For the first time as a mum, I felt I could not protect my child the way my parents protected me.

This elementary school boy’s feelings are valid.  Other than Facebook and Google, which corporations are calling for police reform at the level they called for gay marriage and taking their businesses out of North Carolina?  Is my son’s life and the lives of his friends as equally important?  The lone voice of the Governor of Minnesota is not enough to change the fact that unarmed Black men are seven times more likely than unarmed White men to die from police shootings.  Thus, Read More »

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