Committing to Anti-Racist Learning Environments

Staff Reflect on NCS's Equity Stance and its Impact

The UChicago Network for College Success (NCS) believes in the importance of equity work in schools so that adults create safe, anti-racist learning environments for their students. However, to collaborate with educators in this work, we must lead by example. Each NCS staff member writes their own equity stance in which they outline their identity and values and ultimately the purpose of their work. Additionally, NCS has an organizational equity stance that guides and grounds us. 
Five years ago, we crafted our Equity Stance to address issues surrounding race and equity within our organization. Since then, our organization, partner schools, and communities have put the equity stance into practice and learned from those experiences. 
We recently asked our staff to share some insights into what comes up when they read the equity stance today. 
Many staff voiced the pride they feel working alongside others who are just as passionate about equity work as they are. They also acknowledge the journey that NCS has been on to get to this point: 
“‘NCS is committed to co-creating school environments that honor our young people’s genius and work towards creating transformed student experiences.’ Every time I revisit our equity stance, I’m reminded of the privilege it is to work with educators in building schools that our young people deserve. It reconnects me to the sense of urgency I’ve felt since I began teaching and helps me stay grounded in the most essential work–creating exceptional schools for all young people, especially our least-served youth.”
“I have an ever-deepening appreciation for our collective journey - embracing the spirit of Sankofa, as we learn, rumble, reflect, and work together toward improving the experiences and outcomes of Black, Indigenous, Youth of Color (BIYOC) in Chicago Public Schools and across this nation. We grapple with what it means to be who we are in the waters of structural and institutional racism. Doing so compels us to enter schools and districts wiser and stronger, with an intensified resolve to transform schools into those "necessary spaces" where young people are seen and honored, and their brilliance is amplified.” 
Our staff actively engage with the stance and consider how it impacts their work with peers and educators. This is all for the betterment of young people, especially those who have historically been underrepresented, undervalued, and underheard: 
“‘We fight for education communities that liberate and heal.’ This line continues to resonate with me. It aligns with my belief that we either school young people to control them or educate young people to liberate them.” 
“Reading our collective equity stance always re-grounds me in the work and in our why. In thinking about what it represents, our "north star," our vision for the future, and our honoring of our community's shared histories, I feel energized and ready to bring what I can to this team because I know whatever is on the other side will be worth it, especially for the children in the schools we have the honor of partnering with. Having this stance instills purpose throughout everything that we do, and I would encourage and urge all other organizations in the landscape to take up the work of creating one.” 
This stance unites us in our efforts to advocate for healthy, equitable systems that foster high student achievements for all youth: 
“It is critical for our organization to have a stance because the work of transformation and liberation requires us to be grounded, both individually and collectively. Our individual and collective stances are what provide us with that grounding. Our organizational stance communicates the common grounding that allows us to stand firm in the face of racist systems, pivot to take new action, and lean on one another in the face of difficulty.”
As a learning organization, there is room for growth and improvement. Through honest feedback, we can collectively work on what this stance needs to say today. We plan to update our stance in the coming year to better reflect our deep work to date, and we are excited to share our vision for where we believe our equity work needs to go. 
Having a stance ground you and commits you to take action. We invite you to read our Equity Stance and share what comes up for you. If you were to write a stance, what would it sound like? What would it feel like?