Recapping new initiatives aimed at promoting diversity

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In conjunction with the Equity and Access Team, the Do Better Together committee, started by the Alumni Association, has planned new initiatives regarding diversity and equity at Townsend Harris High School. Some proposals included antiracist resources in the school library, BIPOC student outreach programs, diversifying the Wall of Fame, curricular shifts, a mural project, and a Speaker Series with alumni. A middle school recruitment session was also implemented where the Equity and Access Team reached out to underrepresented middle schools at THHS to inform them about the school’s admission process

Assistant Principal Veronica York said, “We reached out to underrepresented middle schools and invited them to a Q&A session about admissions and our school. We also held an informational session for students with IEPs as part of our ongoing outreach to gain more applicants who are supported by IEPs.”

In addition to THHS admissions, Librarian Arlene Laverde has been working on expanding the THHS library with acquisitions that reflect diversity. “THAA is also working with Ms. Laverde to identify and purchase $800 worth of electronic books written by authors of color,” said THAA Chairperson Selina Lee. “When Ms. Laverde gets those books into the THHS library system, we encourage the students to check them out.” 

The development of the new Wall of Fame is also ongoing. The Equity and Access Team and THAA hope the wall will expand and diversify the cumulative picture of the school’s alumni. Dr. Lee said, “The current proposals range from building a second showcase to creating a digital display. The Alumni Association has allocated $5,000 to this project.” 

Initiatives such as the alumni Equity and Access Speaker Series and the addition of antiracist resources in the library have already gained progress this school year, and have received positive feedback from students thus far.

“My peers and I will benefit by reflecting on ourselves and in turn becoming more inclusive and accepting of people,” said freshman Annie Wang.

Similarly, senior Thomas Szymanski said, “Through the school, we’ve had an undeniably clear link to a growing number of inspirational speakers who’ve really been making an impact on our community. I definitely support and applaud this, as in my view diversity might just be the single most important thing in the academic environment.”

Junior Raquel Mulakandov said, “My friends and I will benefit from the diversity initiatives Townsend is taking by being more open to different cultures and by having a greater respect to various worldview perspectives in the community.”

Some alumni have also shared these hopes for greater inclusivity at THHS. 

“Townsend Harris’ mission, according to the school’s website is to, ‘foster a love of learning, to instill the habit of inquiry, and to promote an awareness of beauty in nature and in the arts.’ In other words, the school values diverse perspectives and expects students to go on to become tolerant, intentional, and upstanding members of society,” 2017 alumna Jillisa Drayton said. “I believe it is impossible to foster a community that can achieve all this without the experience of students from all backgrounds in mind. That is what we are fighting for on the THAA committee.”