The Intersection

Full Circle | A Reflection

April 23, 2024

By Joba Ogun, Intern, The Hunt Institute

I had to discover my potential by myself, and it was a tough journey. I hope that the next generation will have mentors who can help them discover their highest potential.

During my time in public school in the mid-2010s, I encountered academic challenges that made my formative years increasingly difficult.

Achieving greatness, one’s career goals, growing in social and mental health, and more, takes work. One must be determined to achieve one’s goals, even as a child. We’re tasked to think about who we want to be in the future or who we look up to, to start preparing our minds for the work that is ahead of us to conquer.

If I admit, I was focused on the wrong thing growing up. Instead of applying myself to school, I was more focused on my social life. This led me to not try hard in my academics, breeze through my classes, and receive many serious talks with my teachers. Every child has their experience of evolution, and the journey is unique.

But for students of color, we don’t get the same opportunities. One small screw up, and automatically, we are separated from others, with higher rates of suspension and more obstacles to reaching academic success.

It wasn’t until I got into high school that I realized how much control I had over my path. I could truly be anything I set my mind on. That epiphany came from the big reality check that high school was my determining point for future opportunities. That’s when I got to work.

I would’ve come to the realization sooner if the system I was in didn’t have the systematic barriers hindering Black students like me, putting limitations on us and who we can or cannot be. Seeing us as major problems, no matter our societal background, rather than as solutions and helping bring out specific passions and visions that we see for ourselves. That’s it: seeing us the way we see ourselves.

It’s important to have conversations about creating equity-centered school leadership, especially regarding the specific challenges that students of color face. The Race & Education series webinar discussions produced by The Hunt Institute address these issues and offer strategies to shift the narratives to a more equitable and positive environment for all students.

The recent conversation featured Dr. Rotunda Floyd-Cooper from the Wallace Foundation, who discussed the Equity-Pipeline initiative and current research examining how districts are involved in critical consciousness and creating inclusive spaces, Dr. Mark Gooden, professor of education leadership at Columbia University, discussed the importance of the current research of the intentionality in hiring schools leaders that are passionate about creating a community of social awareness, advocacy, social justice, and equity, and Tricia Noyola, CEO of Rocky Mountain Prep, discussed the need for support for women leaders in school districts.

Dr. Floyd-Cooper emphasized the need for principals to be aware of the historical background and then create necessary initiatives to lead and support their team.

Dr. Gooden defined education equity as a welcoming, caring, and inclusive environment where all students learn and flourish. He stressed the importance of a commitment to fair and just treatment of each student, addressing structural barriers to their success, and the delivery of resources aimed at providing equitable outcomes.

To create education equity in schools, it’s essential to identify the current state of equity for students, address unconscious bias, establish an equity team, conduct research, establish data and needs assessments, and figure out how to fix the inequalities.

Dr. Gooden mentioned the power of student-led projects and emphasized the need to listen to and empower student voices.

The conversation ended with how school leaders can right now produce a healthy and inclusive environment.

Dr. Floyd-Cooper touched on the importance of empathy, courage, building relationships, addressing bias and discrimination.

Tricia Noyola mentioned simply choosing joy-optimization.

“Real joy comes from seeing our kids and leaders be successful and having honest conversations.”

As a school leader, it is important to create an environment where everyone’s voice is heard and valued. This includes both students and teachers. To achieve this, it is necessary to provide support, be intentional and have a strong passion for the work. Everything comes down to setting your intention and working towards it.




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