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Alumnae Spotlight: Alumnae of Color Network
Like many teachers preparing for this academic year, Summer 2020 was incredibly busy for Yasmin Francis ’13, a middle and high school reading teacher at Somerset Academy Charter School in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Melbey Flores ’13, a first grade ESL teacher at UP Academy Holland, a turnaround school within the Boston Public School system. In addition to navigating the new school year, these two former classmates have also been busy helping Newton Country Day launch our Alumnae of Color Network.

In June, Francis and Flores contacted the school expressing their desire to help co-found a program designed as a space for alumnae to connect, network, and engage in productive conversations with each other about racism and social justice issues in their daily lives.

“I was inspired to start the Network after speaking to my mother (Fatima Ali-Salaam ’83) who is also a Newton alumna of color, and learning about how few conversations had been happening among herself and her own classmates,” Francis shared. “As the George Floyd protests were happening, I wondered how I could connect with other alumnae and start a conversation about the experiences we had as minorities at NCDS. Having worked in alumni relations in college, I see the value and strength of this type of community not only for us as alumnae, but also for current students.”

The Network’s mission is to honor Goal III in continuing to promote an education in social awareness within the Sacred Heart community, to help guide conversations around current social issues, and to provide leadership and a sense of community among alumnae and students of color alike. “We hope the Network will provide the current young women of color at NCDS with the opportunity to connect with alumnae of color, and give them a space to feel seen, honored, and heard,” said Flores.

Working alongside Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Jacklyn Burgo ’01 and Director of Alumnae Relations Amanda Power ’07, members of the Network will launch a mentorship program loosely designed off of the iMentor program. iMentor matches high school students with mentors of similar backgrounds as they navigate high school and prepare for college.

As educators, for Francis and Flores, “The mentor program is something we are both passionate about and is important because we would like to provide our current students and families with the support needed in whatever way possible,” they shared. For those who opt into the program, Newton’s initiative will match professional women of color with students of color beginning in Spring 2021.

"Mentorship is essential to the growth of our students as leaders,” said Burgo. “By offering students an opportunity to connect with alumnae and have gone on to work in different industries or serve diverse communities, we are providing students with the insight and coaching they need to follow these paths or create their unique journeys. The gift of mentorship is priceless so I'm thankful to our alumnae for stepping up. I am sure current students will be eager to connect." Alumnae and students will be matched for up to a year with virtual check-ins, goal setting initiatives, networking opportunities, and an introduction to the Alumnae of Color Network.

In addition to the development of the Alumnae of Color Network and student mentorship program, in an email sent in early September, the School shared these further steps to update the greater Newton Country Day community on how the School is productively engaging in conversations about race:
  • Faculty, staff, and trustees completed an IDI assessment (Intercultural Development Inventory) in August. As we await the results, we are discussing other ways to make the NCDS experience a more equitable one. Based on the results of the assessments, we will design enrichment experiences to meet our faculty and staff where they are and to help guide them along the spectrum towards multicultural understanding.

  • Students, faculty, and staff will take the National Association of Independent School (NAIS) Assessment on Inclusion and Multiculturalism Survey. This survey is meant to serve as an institutional benchmark for how we can continue to improve the experiences of multicultural students and faculty and staff.

  • A group of faculty and staff will take part in the AISNE Diversity Conference, which will be entirely virtual. Our participants will learn more about how we can support the student body and ensure that the vast diversity experiences are represented in the community, from the classroom to every staff office. 

  • Brittany Borders ’04 has rejoined our staff as our Director of Constituent Relations. Part of her portfolio is to design and implement Diversity and Equity initiatives specifically for Middle School students and their parents.

To support these initiatives, Newton Country Day created a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Fund in the fall of 2020. Funds designated to the DEI Fund will go directly to expanding programming focused on social justice, anti-racism, equity, and inclusion, including speakers, training, and conferences for students and faculty and staff.

Because of the hard work and outpouring of support from alumnae like Flores and Francis, the Alumnae of Color Network officially launched in August 2020. “I hope that the Network is able to support the students, faculty, and administration in supporting and communicating with students of color,” said Francis. “Creating an official platform for alumnae of color to communicate with one another is so important, because it opens the line of communication when social change is happening and enables students of color to meet mentors who can say they share certain experiences and provide advice.”

Get involved in the Alumnae of Color Network, and learn more about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives at the school, here.