April 12th – Judith Ohikuare has expectations for #indyschoolgirlsofcolor

Chapin Exterior

RIISE dubs 2014 year of the GIRL
We recognize Her and mentor Her transformation into WOMAN

Our anticipation is high for RIISE & Chapin’s April 12th event – Girls of Color & The Women They Become: A look at success through an independent school lens. And we are super thrilled to have event moderator and today’s guest blogger, Judith Ohikuare share more insight on what is behind and in front of the indy school curtain for kids, in particular, girls of color. Thanks so much Judith.

A few months ago, I wrote an article for The Atlantic called “When Minorities Attend Elite Private Schools ,” hoping to generate the kind of conversation we’ll be having next month at my alma mater. I attended Chapin from sixth grade until twelfth, and had returned to the school a couple of times in the years after my graduation for some of my favorite events (the annual holiday concert, the fall book fair)—and during each of my visits I was struck by how dramatically different the environment was. Sure, the school building had undergone significant renovations (and I was a little envious that I wouldn’t be there to experience them firsthand)—but more noticeably, the student body itself seemed to have been revamped, and dramatically. When I started at Chapin, I was only the second black girl in my class, one of very few students of color and, equally significantly, one of few working-class students of color in my class. But during my visits, it was impossible to keep track of all of the black and brown faces in each of the classes; and as my sister is currently attending Chapin, I also knew that those students hailed from a variety of backgrounds: not only the Upper East Side, but Harlem; not only Manhattan, but the other boroughs; not only upper-or-working-class, but middle-class; and on and on. I was curious about the incredibly rapid demographic changes the school had undergone since I had left—and also about how those students who were part of this vanguard might be faring. And more universally, I wondered if this trend extended beyond Chapin’s borders and beyond the borders of New York City.


Although I was nervous about getting too personal in a piece that I was writing for a major website, I felt that it was important to do so. I wanted to investigate the motivations of private and independent schools for extending their reach in new ways, but also the motivations of parents who choose to send their children to environments that might be wonderful and inspiring, but possibly also confusing and alienating. And more honestly, I wanted to finally be honest about my experience in a way that I often feared being when I was younger, and in doing so, encourage students like me (or unlike me) to share their own stories—and have faculty and staff get in on the conversation as well. I’m incredibly excited to moderate next month’s panel because one of my hopes is that we will be able to have an open conversation, in a safe space, about the equally wonderful and challenging experience of being a person of color—and a girl, then woman of color—in an independent school. I have a lot to learn from all of you and hope that in sharing our stories we can support students who aren’t simply reflecting on their past, but currently shaping what their future will be. 

Click here for registration & details

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One Comment

  1. Gina Parker Collins
    Posted March 31, 2014 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Judith, we thank you for coming back to NYC to support the #indyschoolgirlsofcolor event at Chapin as our moderator. It’s e one big “mentorfest” and we are so excited to deliver attention, support, and tools to our amazing girls of color as they journey through the academic and social rigors of an indy school education and beyond. Cam’t wait!

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