Introducing Stuyvesant’s Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee
Issue 4, Volume 113
School counselor and co-founder Sandra Brandan, Associate Director of College Counseling and co-founder Jeaurel Wilson, Assistant Principal of School Counseling and co-founder Casey Pedrick, and school counselor and cabinet member Angel Colon established the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee a few years ago in order to promote greater representation and understanding toward different ethnic groups at Stuyvesant.
George Floyd’s death in May 2020 instigated the DEI Committee’s motivations in expanding their influence within the Stuyvesant community to promote equality and address any prevalent issues. “Trying to make sure that [voices of] students of color in the building were heard was something we’ve been trying to do for years, but it wasn’t until the global outcry of the George Floyd debacle that really pushed for something to happen in Stuyvesant,” Wilson said. “As a premiere high school in New York City, it just seemed fitting that we can be the spearhead to making sure that all schools [...] have a place where [students of color] can feel welcomed and feel like their voices are heard.”
Since the DEI committee is relatively new, the members are starting with smaller steps that prioritize raising awareness of the committee’s work and presence as a support system within the Stuyvesant community. “A big thing is that in the staff handbook we did now add a mission statement regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s an addendum to the school’s mission to say this is a school of diversity, equity, and an inclusive environment,” Brandan said. “Also in the student handbook, we put the link. Those steps might seem small, but they are very impactful.”
Other goals the DEI fulfilled include the Hispanic Heritage month dinner, which was held on October 13 alongside the Stuyvesant Hispanic Students Association (ASPIRA) and the Black Students League (BSL). “[We held this dinner] because this is a time to celebrate and the BSL has always run a black history month dinner so having a model and being able to expand that to our Latinx students is very positive,” Pedrick said.
Additionally, though DEI’s projects aren’t marketed as so, their influence permeates through a raft of small events and changes in Stuyvesant. “A lot of the things we do are more subtle [...] For instance, in Black History Month this past year, we had many bulletin boards and artistic flyers that were put up celebrating Black artists, Black women, Black voices,” Pedrick said. “[Moreover], the talk circles around race are brought to you by the DEI, but it’s not necessarily marketed that way.”
DEI members have also placed a great focus on concordance with other diversity and inclusive organizations in Stuyvesant, including ASPIRA and BSL. “We actually go attend the diversity club meetings. There’s a lot of interest meetings that are happening and [...] whenever we [hear] of any other affinity groups that are having meetings, we would love to show our faces and [...] hopefully build the student body to DEI work,” Brandan said.
The DEI also emphasizes student involvement with diversity initiatives that are working with other schools. “We have student leaders that represent Stuyvesant High School that sometimes bring this conversation to the NYC DOE or higher administration [and] also counterparts at other high schools. They’re partnering us up with other schools and we’re kind of creating this sibling relationship because the problems here at Stuy are also at other schools and other systems,” Colon said. “They’re always asking some of our students to come to some type of forum to talk to the chancellor, talk to superintendents, to bring up these issues in the system.”
For most of the DEI committee members, however, the impact DEI had on creating new events and traditions was far less significant than their individual success stories with changing students’ thoughts and beliefs. “One of the success stories is when a student used the N-word, we were really able to have that conversation with that student and build a platform to put that down,” Wilson said. “You can’t quantify success because it’s not like a test we’re taking. But, it’s really more so our main goal is for people to feel welcome and to feel a sense of belonging.”
In the near future, DEI plans to include diversity panels in Stuyvesant’s open house to expand their initiative. “We’re doing a fall open house in-person again, and something we started doing was to have the library feature our identity clubs so, when new students are coming in, [...] they’re going to remember [being] reflected in a huge group of students who seem like they’re doing really well here and happy with their choice to be at Stuyvesant,” Pedrick said.
Though some affinity group leaders believe that the groups play a greater role in planning events, they acknowledge the impact DEI has on them. “I think that ASPIRA/BSL has more of an impact on the DEI than the other way around. Since we are members of both ASPIRA/BSL and DEI, we facilitate a lot of things that go on,” senior and ASPIRA president Arlette Duran said. “I think [DEI] has had a very big impact on the Stuyvesant student body because of all the events going on and the amount of students engaged.”