Tell us about your new job.
This unique position that I have is a balcony view of what’s going on across Poly, sitting with school-wide directors and serving as a resource for our student, faculty, parent, and alumni groups. In July, I stepped into the community and am seeing where DEI work has been taking place, coming in with respect for the groundwork already laid by students and faculty. Our student groups have been growing, ranging from racial, ethnic-based affinity groups to groups focused on feminist education and LGBTQ+ issues. As I am able to engage with these unique, but also very connected, populations, I get to think about how it is that we’re weaving diverse, equitable, and inclusive practices throughout our whole community.
How were you thinking about DEI as a Poly student?
I wouldn’t have used those words, but I was just looking for a time to talk and acknowledge the fact that there were differences across our classes, to talk about the fact that Poly was different from Pasadena Unified School District, where I went for elementary school. I wanted to hear someone acknowledge that there wasn’t just one monolithic experience that people brought to our school. If we had that space and recognition, we could have learned so much from each other. Maybe we didn’t have those conversations because there was a sense of not wanting to ruffle people’s feathers or create a lack of unity.
What should parents say at home to open up safe spaces to talk about DEI?
What’s important in the early years is to understand that people come from all walks of life and that their differences can be a source of strength in the community. As students get into middle and high school, it’s important for them to understand how those differences are valued, both presently and historically. Students are understanding, “Who am I in this world? How do I walk through it? What can I do to be a good community member?” A good member is someone who values and listens to the people around them. It doesn’t mean that they have to agree, but it does mean that they’re holding space and providing a sense of belonging to the people around them.
In what ways do you see parents hindering DEI work?
Sometimes we try to protect our children from discomfort. Or we automatically assume that either they’re too young or that talking about certain topics will only make them feel bad or sad. They’re just kids, right? I’m the mom of a beautiful 6-year-old boy, and the first thing that I think of every day is, how can I protect him? How can I make sure he’s healthy and happy? Sometimes as parents, we focus on protection so much that we might underestimate our children’s capacity to be challenged and to grapple with hard things. But look at what happens in sports, or swimming lessons, when it’s clearly not a comfortable experience for the child. The child is not happy at first, and then they have their peers, their coaches, equipping them with confidence and skills, and they find ways to manage the discomfort and to channel it in a positive way. The same goes for talking about issues that make us parents feel uncomfortable or cause us to admit that we don’t have the answers.
Where can we learn more?
I’m a huge fan of the Pasadena Public Library, and I read its Off the Shelf newsletter that lists ongoing educational opportunities, especially at the La Pintoresca Branch in Northwest Pasadena. Vroman’s Bookstore also promotes a diverse range of authors and speakers. And you can get your family involved in community-based groups like Adelante Youth Alliance.