(Rainier Scholar Jessica (L) and Angelica Johnson, her Academic Counselor)
I’m an Academic Counselor to a high school scholar named Jessica who is a junior at the Lakeside School. The photo of Jessica and I was taken during a one-on-one meeting we had in Bliss Hall when she shared with me that she was excited to have recently joined the Junior Varsity basketball team. In the past, Jessica has expressed an interest in playing a sport at Lakeside, but was intimidated to try it out because she feared that she was not competitive enough. Jessica continues to do well in her classes and would like to be even more challenged in her accelerated pre-calculus class. We discussed ways that she could engage with her math teacher to see if he could give her extra or more advanced work. Jessica is pushing herself to take more risks at Lakeside and believe in her ability to succeed. As her Academic Counselor, I have been working with Jessica to equip her with the skills and encouragement she needs to grow as a student.
Jessica is an active member of Lakeside Asian-Pacific Students (LAPS.) Asian-Pacific students make up one of the largest racial/ethnic groups on the Lakeside campus. This affinity club is organized by students and aims both to provide a supportive network as well as to raise general awareness about Asian-American identity and culture. In LAPS, Jessica wants to push to have more conversation about race and racism and engage more biracial students. I affirmed her desire to organize discussions around race is valid and suggested that she could also include mixed race identity in such discussions so that members will have a space to discuss things that speak to their lived experiences. I encouraged her to check out some movies/documentaries and articles that could be good conversation starters and offered my help in finding other resources. I praised Jessica for wanting to push the envelope because this goes against the stereotype of Asian females being docile and conflict avoidant.
This is just one example of my work as an Academic Counselor in cultivating my students to be strong self-advocates and risk takers. In private school environments where there are few students of color, being a minority can be very triggering for our students on multiple levels. It is important in my work to affirm the talents/skills and narratives that my students bring to the table as well as encourage them to take full advantage of all the opportunities and resources at the tip of their fingers. In light of recent events in Ferguson and a push to continue to discuss topics of race, immigration, etc. on an institutional level, our students are in a unique position to serve as leaders at their schools in organizing discussions/dialogue on creating environments that celebrate difference and institutionalize practices of inclusivity that are willing to invest in the presence, safety, and success of students of color and their families. Jessica’s story is just one example of the amazing work our students are doing on campus, in the classroom and in their personal development.