I wrote my last blog one week ago, not imagining all that might happen in one week’s time. I am still trying to process all that is going on and can’t seem to put all that I am seeing, reading, experiencing, and feeling into the right words. There have been protests all around the country in support of Black Lives and in a collective stand against white supremacy and racism. There have been protests and gatherings throughout Atlanta and in Decatur where GVP is located, as well. Our country and our community are in the midst of a pandemic, a powerful protest movement, and a sharp economic decline, and meanwhile as a school we must continue our work to support students and families and reimagine ways of delivering this support and advocating for refugee families in the midst of it all.
That wasn’t easy this week. The weight of this troubling time was palpable and the toll it is taking more evident. I could see fatigue and frustration levels were higher. Each one of us on the team is dealing with our own personal situations and stressors while doing our very best to support each other, our students and their families, and our own families and wider community efforts towards justice. While it was a challenging week, many of us found encouragement and comfort in our collaborations, continued work, and collective vision and hope for the future.
It was also our first week of summer on the GVP calendar. The teachers have concluded their instructional work for now and started thinking about professional development and planning for next year. And, the administrative staff has gone to a four-day work week. We started online summer clubs this week, and planned another family food and supply delivery for Monday. We finalized plans for our first GVP DEI book club that will bring together volunteers, board members, and staff around texts and issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We also started important new student interview and intake sessions online, and are beginning to put together our new roster and plans for our Welcome Unit in August.
We always start every semester with an integrated unit of study focused on welcoming. This year we will do the same, but in different ways. Usually, we spend lots of time close together in our Community Room and Newcomer Classroom during the first weeks of school. We hold hands, we sing, we share our names and try out new greetings in different languages. We often create skits around school Core Values and you can see students close together, huddled up and collaborating on their lines and movements. We share about our families and favorite things to do in large morning circles. We make sure that we all understand our Community Agreements to 1) respect all people inside and outside of school, 2) dedicate ourselves to learning and helping others learn, and 3) keep our school safe and welcoming for all. I feel sure that our Welcome Unit will look much different as we start this school year but also know that there is much that we hope will stay the same.
I have heard that our County will reveal reopening plans next week. We are all excited and somewhat anxious to hear so that we can begin to create more focused plans and processes for GVP that will align with the County’s and best support students and their learning in the year ahead. This looks to be an unusually busy and unpredictable summer, following this unusual and unprecedented spring. We have much to do to prepare, but we are ready for the challenge and grateful that GVP remains strong, committed, and capable of continuing to provide excellent education and services to our students and families. Of course, this would not be possible without our amazing community of support.
I learned this week that the number of donating households to GVP grew from almost 700 last year to beyond 900 this year! It is incredible to think about the number of humans giving their time, treasure, and talent to our organization and, in turn, to ensuring educational equity for refugee young women. I am so grateful that this growing group dares to dream with us a better world. Today, I dream that the tumult of this moment in time will bring us to a world that is safe for people of color and where justice and equity for all is a reality and not simply a hope. I dream that the refugee young women at GVP will be catalysts and leaders for change. I believe that what the world needs now more than ever are competent, committed, and compassionate women, like our GVP graduates, to lead the way.
“We need to reshape our own perception of how we view ourselves. We have to step up as women and take the lead.” – Beyoncé
“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” – Rosalynn Carter
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” – Maya Angelou