Students advocate for change through equity team

Le+included+this+quote+in+the+presentation+during+the+interest+meeting+and+also+last+year%27s+student-led+town+hall.+%22We+have+to+hold+ourselves+accountable+in+order+to+progress%2C+make+a+more+equitable+school+environment+and+foster+an+anti-racist+mindset+at+Annandale+High+School%2C%22+Le+said.+%22We+have+to+recognize+that+we+are+by+no+means+perfect+in+order+for+us+to+grow.%22

Le included this quote in the presentation during the interest meeting and also last year’s student-led town hall. “We have to hold ourselves accountable in order to progress, make a more equitable school environment and foster an anti-racist mindset at Annandale High School,” Le said. “We have to recognize that we are by no means perfect in order for us to grow.”

The first Equity Team meeting started with senior and co-founder Jimmy Le persistently asking people to turn their cameras on through Zoom, hoping to foster a welcoming community rather than having to stare at 40 faceless names.

“We have all noticed the inequities that exist at school, and we have been silent for too long,” Le said. “I want a coalition of staff, students and teachers who want to make sustainable change in our school culture and promote equity for all.”

Once the cameras were (mostly) on, Le and junior co-founder Jewel Coulter outlined the purpose and framework of the Annandale Equity Team. There will be several committees: Access to IB/Honors for All, Anti Racism Education, Participation in Athletics and the Arts, College Assistance, Curriculum, ELL Access to AHS Opportunities, LGBTQ+ Representation and Pyramid Development.

“I am most excited about the anti-racism committee because I have encountered a lot of subtle racism at school myself, and I think the way to remedy that is to educate teachers and students,” senior Haleluya Worku said.

Each committee will address a different inequity within the school and ideally be led by a student and faculty chair. The meeting largely focused on students learning about each committee and signing up for the ones that piqued their interest. Additional committees were also proposed that would focus on mental health awareness, disability rights and sexual violence.

By the end of the hour-long meeting, the group had a much clearer picture of their goals for the year and next steps. However, making it up to this point took quite the effort. Beforehand, Le had many conversations with the school’s Equity Leads, English teacher Ingrid St. Clair and admin member Brent Roberson.

“The process was long and cumbersome, but I know that it is worth it for this to come to fruition,” Le said.

In addition, senior Jocelyn McCullogh provided support since she started her own Equity Team at Justice High School last year. Her team has gained a lot of participants over time, and she is confident that Annandale will eventually build its own group of dedicated and passionate people.

“Due to the violence and hate of the world that exists everywhere, including Fairfax County, we have all been through or seen oppression in our communities,” McCullogh said. “We know that this work is long overdue, but we are the ones who will do it.”

Fairfax County, as a whole, has finally recognized the importance of student voice in these matters. The county has announced that there will be an Equity Student Ambassador from each Equity Team. The details of the position and when it will be announced officially remains unclear as of now.

Back at Annandale, individual committee meetings will be held as soon as teachers and other staff members are recruited to become faculty chairs for these committees.

“One of the biggest problems is that staff and students both witness things that are wrong, but we often look the other way for one reason or another,” Le said.

Interested community members, whether it be students past and present or staff, are welcome to join to make the school a better and safer space. The next meeting will be on Oct. 21 at 3:30 p.m.

Updates can be found at the Instagram account, and anyone with questions can reach out by sending an email to [email protected]

Worku doesn’t know what exactly she wants to achieve in the Equity Team this year, but she’s okay with that. “I just want the staff and students to be in an environment where anybody can be anybody, and everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed,” she said.