The design of the two-week program has provided time each day for students to reflect, discuss and write to not only deepen their own knowledge and understanding of the many legacies of slavery and injustice, but to inspire confidence necessary to speak with authority in their efforts to create change. .
As one of the only Indigenous students at her school, Cate McDonough, a rising junior from Cranston, RI, and a member of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation, said she signed up for the summer institute to acquire the knowledge necessary to challenge traditional historical narratives.
“By learning and being here, I hope to speak more and not feel like I’m an embarrassment or that my existence is difficult or another step for people,” she said. “Black and Indigenous history should feature more prominently in our curriculum, and I hope I have the strength and knowledge to champion and defend it. »
For Lily Aspen, a rising elder from Manasquan, NJ, and an Alaska Native who belongs to the Ninilchik Village Tribe, the program has provided new knowledge, tools and strategies they can use to advocate for efforts to to increase diversity and inclusion. “We have a number of diversity initiatives that we are trying to implement at my school, and now I can come back with new knowledge and help make more informed decisions.”
Aspen runs an Indigenous Peoples Club, raises funds for various Indigenous organizations, hosts events, and creates bulletin boards and newsletters to help dismantle historical stereotypes and myths in the community. They also sit on the diversity committee of the school’s board of trustees to weigh in on everything from student representation and faculty hiring to the curriculum.
“The best part is being around people, like me, who care about diversity issues and want to do something about it,” they said of the summer institute. “We learn to solve these problems together as a group.”