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."

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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.

3) I greet students and parents every morning while reading a book by an author of color. POC are very underrepresented in literature both on the writing and content end. By seeing me read books on a wide array of topics by POC, it creates a safe space where dialogue and conversation can occur. (My most recent morning reads have been Nobody by Marc Lamont Hill and The Invisible Man Got the Whole World Watching by Mychal Denzel Smith)

4) I intentionally make sure that I am seen around the building as much as possible. As is the case at any independent school, numbers of POC are small. Being seen around campus allows others to see me in a multitude of roles and allows all students to know that I am here for them as much as they need.

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