Two images side by side: Equality vs Equity. Equality shows two children standing on equal hight stools reaching for books and the height of one student does not let them reach. Equity shows the same shorter student on a taller stool that brings the books
July 31, 2019
Melissa Ruiz Hernandez

My organization, Say Yes to Education Buffalo, is addressing equity through education. However, they’re just not saying “Every child should have access to a great education!” They ask, “What are the specialized needs of children in this school that prevent them from having a great education?"

Within Say Yes, I am working with Tanya Staples, the Community Schools Director, and other staff regarding Community Schools. Community Schools are schools that work strategically with the community, families, students, and community organizations to provide an environment where students can learn and thrive despite various factors/obstacles. For example, a student might want to learn but can’t because they have a toothache that won’t let them focus. They might not be able to go to the doctor because they don’t have the transportation, money or support. This is where Community Schools would come in; they have mental health, dental and legal clinics which provide important resources and services to the community. Community Schools have a whole-child model which recognizes that not all students come to school with the same resources or preparedness. It also recognizes that academic success is more than having challenging coursework, it’s about social and emotional development, safe schools, family and parent engagement, preventing summer learning loss, etc… Say Yes divides its schools by zones (Northeast, South, East and West) and each zone has zone leaders and Community School navigators. Since each zone is unique, the work at each school is unique to its demographic. In this way, Say Yes tries to ensure that students are on an equal playing field and can access and enjoy opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have obtained. Right now, Say Yes is focusing on equity in postsecondary institutions. It's amazing that Say Yes scholars get to attend college, but even though they have the same opportunity to further their education, this doesn't mean everyone will be equally prepared to tackle academic and personal challenges during college. Say Yes is looking to hire Say Yes counselors to work at college campuses to help Say Yes students navigate their first year. This is crucial considering that freshman year of college is an important transition period and the first time many students live away from home.

My job specifically is to create a Community Schools Best Practices Guide which outlines the standards and practices that Community Schools should follow. By creating this document, I hope that future resources are used efficiently and there are standard accountability measures. It also will streamline the process of becoming and being a Community School. Community Schools have many working components (such as parent centers, summer camps, Saturday academies, tutoring, after-school programs, and many more) which may make things a bit overwhelming sometimes. By having a guide to refer to, all stakeholders are able to focus on their work and how to make schools more equitable for students.

The accompanying Equity Graphic can be accessed here: https://smartreading.org/assets/Equality-Initiative-Inforgraph-6.jpg