Building an Equitable and Inclusive Community
A Message from the Head of School - June 29:
Dear Breck Community,
I am reaching out to you today with a heavy heart. One of the most oft-used descriptions of Breck is the strength of our community, yet this moment of reckoning in our country, city, and our school has elevated the many painful stories of our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Since the murder of George Floyd, we've connected with many current students and alumni regarding their experiences. Over the past weekend, we were made aware of a student-created and curated Instagram account called Black at Breck (@blackatbreck) in which BIPOC students share their lived experiences in our school home. Like other schools, colleges, and universities across the country, this is an anonymous account that is intended to provide a platform for the lived experiences of BIPOC students in our schools. Educational institutions across sectors of schooling and across the country must account for their contributions to glaring inequities in society, and Breck is no exception.
The courageous stories posted by our Breck students, alumni, faculty and former faculty describe hurtful, racist incidents and indicate that students who identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Color have had painful experiences at our school. Many of the stories are heartbreaking. My sense is that they come from both current students and alumni across many years. I am completely committed to listening to our current and former students and we will do everything in our power to repair and reconcile. Like so many things in our culture, I know that reading these stories is especially hard on our BIPOC community members. For some of us, these posts will trigger our own personal school experiences. For many, it will be evidence that despite our own personal commitment to justice and equity at Breck, there is so much more to do. As you read these posts, I ask that you keep in mind the following guidance I offered to our faculty and staff:
- Breck is not above reproach. I am not above reproach.
- We must each hold up a mirror and be accountable.
- We will not go back. We are moving forward.
- If we err, we will do so with words, not with silence.
- Now is not the time to be defensive. Now is the time to listen and value the stories being told.
- You will be uncomfortable. In fact, if I know our community as I believe I do, you - like me - will be heartbroken. We will feel that pain and harness the emotion to act.
- I am proud of our students. We work to prepare them to step up with courage and action in moments like these. We must be open and accepting when they use their preparation to hold us accountable.
We are committed to a process of reconciliation that will result in long term, systemic change for our School. And as with any process of reconciliation, truth telling has to happen before healing can begin. We will harness the urgency of this moment to move forward the work of a full equity audit of our policies, practices, and pedagogy. Together with our Inclusion Committee of our Board of Trustees, we have spent the last year in listening sessions, interviewing consultants, and committing resources to the audit we have previously planned to begin this fall. Our commitment to this equity audit has been strategic and intentional. Our goal has always been to make substantial and sustainable changes, co-created with you, our community members. We can only get better with your help.
Many of you have reached out to express your own stories and experiences as a member of our community. Both your pride in our school and your concern for our culture have resonated and influenced our work as we look ahead. I want you to know that no matter how difficult the moment, we are a community of Mustangs that will join together to listen deeply, have hard conversations, and take action to co-create a community that makes us all proud. We will lead this work with integrity by ensuring that our actions match our school’s mission and values.
Your voices have been and will continue to be integral to our ongoing institutional change. We will reach out to each constituency with opportunities to engage directly with us. If you would like to connect, please do not hesitate to write to me, Assistant Upper School Director Chris Ohm, or our Program Directors, Heidi Kim, Director of the Melrose Center for Servant Leadership, Alexis Kent, Head Chaplain and Director of Community Life, or Sarah Flotten, Interim Director of the Peter Clark Center for Mind, Brain, and Education. We invite our alumni to email Kyle Parsons, Director of Alumni Affairs and Giving.
I am inspired by our students and enthusiastically take on the work ahead of us. This is a defining moment in our school’s long story, and I am honored to lead our community at this time.
Natalia Rico Hernández, Ed.D.
Head of School
This year for the first time, Breck’s Annual Giving Committee has three extraordinary students join us as volunteers. We are thrilled to welcome Josh Furman, Sahana Mangipudi, and McKenna Quam, all members of the class of 2021, to the team!
We hope you found the articles and interviews shared by Native American members of the Breck community insightful this month and that as a community we all learned more about Indigeneity. Our last highlight of Native American Heritage Month is an interview with the Sixkiller family. We are thankful for them and for their continued engagement in the Breck community!
During the month of November, we are introducing you to Native American families who are part of the Breck community. You can learn more about Indigeneity during our weekly updates throughout the month of November, which is Native American Heritage Month. This week’s spotlight is on the Goze families.