Our Newest RIISE Advisor Talks: Affinity Groups, Are They Relevant?

Liz and her daughters

Elizabeth and her daughters

 

We are thrilled to formally introduce Elizasbeth Perez Azerad . Liz has been a good friend, and a true RIISE advocate contributing as a guest blogger; and  co-developer/moderator of a compelling admission’s panel discussion at our Fall Boutique Recruitment Event. We are happy to have her official support! Liz opens this blog about the relevancy of  parent affinity groups by first sharing little bit about herself…

 

As the new multicultural advisor to RIISE, I would like to thank Gina for entrusting me with the job of contributing to her vision of helping families of color navigate the world of Independent Schools.  I am honored to serve in this capacity

By way of introduction, I would like to let you know a little about myself and my personal journey that have brought me to join in this important work.  I am a second generation Mexican American born and raised in TX in the 70’s and 80’s. Although the majority of my extended family continues to live in cities or towns south of San Antonio, I was raised in a predominantly Anglo community, Fort Worth, where my mother worked as a lab technician and my father was a prominent lawyer and judge.  Two factors were incredible blessings to me as I moved through my education: I had devoted mentors who guided and directed me at every turn, and my parents were committed to providing me with the best educational opportunities that they could afford.  Apart from kindergarten I attended private school in Ft Worth until leaving to complete a BA in Cultural Anthropology from Stanford University and an MD from the University of Chicago.

Two of my children graduated from Horace Mann in 2012 and 2013 and are very successful in their undergraduate institutions.  I have two young boys who still have many years left in their educational journeys. Beginning in 2010 I became a co-Parent Liaison to the Office of Diversity and founded the Diversity Committee of the Horace Mann Parent Association. During these three years I grew to understand the powerful role that Affinity groups play for us and to the greater community.  While at Horace Mann I coined the line, “Everyone has a Role to Play in Diversity.”  While I still believe that understanding and acceptance are crucial goals for our society at large, I am pleased to focus my attention with families of color as they explore the educational options in Independent Schools.

 Affinity Groups: Are they Relevant?

Pondering the relevance of Affinity Groups I am reminded of an incident that occurred in my final year as Diversity Chair.  I received a phone call at 9:30 in the evening from the mother of a new student.  I could hear the distress in her voice as she explained that she and her child had been arguing for over an hour about the details of an event that should have been nothing but joyful.  I knew from my own daughter that this student, in spite of being new to the school, was going to receive the highest award given by a particular school group the following day.  In this case, the student’s achievements were record breaking and this truly was time for celebration, not contention.  At issue, the mother could not understand from her cultural perspective that honorees needn’t attend in anything more special than school clothes and more so, she couldn’t understand why parents were not invited to the award ceremony. I checked in with my daughter, a member of the group and shot a quick email to a more experienced mother than myself, just for the added perspective. Within 20 minutes I was able to congratulate the new mom and reassure her that everything her child had said was true.

Although the specifics of this story may seem insignificant to the big picture of our children’s success in the competitive world of Independent Schools, those of us with children who have entered a school in the Middle or Upper school years, know how important it is to fit in, seem like one of the group and not draw undue attention to oneself. As they make their way through independent school education there are so many challenges facing our kids that any way that we can smooth the path, either for our own, or other students of color is a noble goal.  Helping this family could not have been possible if the mother had not already identified me as a member and advocate of affinity group work.  I’m sure the fact that she had already attended a Parent Chat run by the Diversity Chairs also made it easier for her to pick up the phone rather late at night.  I couldn’t have gotten her an answer as quickly as I did without the strong network of friends that I know will answer an email even later at night.

As we move forward in pondering how affinity groups can have a positive effect on our families and the success of our children, let’s consider these points about the value of affinity groups:

1.)        If for no other reason, affinity groups offer us a soft place to fall when times are tough, a common perspective that can help us regroup or simply relax

2.)        The day is long and the work is great…knowledge is power and affinity groups help us aggregate our knowledge.

3.)        The majority culture is very well resourced and networked…don’t get left behind

4.)        Knowledge is power (I can’t say this enough) …building connection with other affinity groups expands our understanding and power by offering us a larger network of social, parental and educational references.

In conclusion, I invite you to comment on this and future blogs so that we can continue this conversation together.

Have a Peaceful and Blessed Holiday Season and a Healthy and Prosperous New Year

Elizabeth

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