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People of Color Conference!

Updated: Dec 10, 2023

It has taken me a week to fully reflect on my time at this year's National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) People of Color Conference (POCC) held in St. Louis, Missouri. Over 6,000 educators and over 2,000 students participating in SDLC ascended upon the city.  Neither the city nor I was ready for the transformative 4-day, 3-night experience.

I want to share a series of photographs that provide a narrative and relevance of the conference and the impact of the independent school's origins, experiences, connection to community, and promise. 

I had the chance to bump into Tim Jaeger, formerly of Episcopal but now as a school administrator at the Potomac School in McLean, Virginia.  

I first met Tim Jaeger and called him Coach Jaeger.  Like some students, my independent school journey began with an alethic introduction to the school.  My AAU team had the opportunity to play against the defending State Champion Team at Episcopal, and we were surely reminded we were 8th graders.  Nonetheless, a few others and I entered the Admissions Office and started the process. I later found myself at Episcopal and a member of 2 additional basketball State Championship Teams, now all inducted into the Episcopal Hall of Fame. 

Fast forward to my graduation from the College of William and Mary, I placed a call to Coach Jaeger about returning to Episcopal to volunteer coach on the Varsity Basketball Team, and I did so for 15 years as an Assistant Coach, winning another State Championship and a few conference titles while mentoring and coaching countless guys.  

This coaching experience led to me eventually closing the loop to actually working at Episcopal as an Admissions Officer and later a 9th-grade Dorm Parent and eventually the Head of the 9th-grade dorm.  

At this moment, I returned full circle.  I found myself, the Black student, the former old boy, the former Black graduate and now Black Faculty Member in a familiar spot and space but in an unfamiliar role.  As many of you know, the journey for a Black male educator can be lonely and does not always provide one of commonality or certainty.  

But it’s smiles like this one with a former student of mine who has since transferred from Episcopal, but nonetheless found me and gave me an amazing update and hug on the next steps in his journey!  I was filled with joy and recharged. I know that I’m in the right profession!  

It is also seeing former coworkers and friends like Prince Botchway, Director of Equity and Inclusion, and many more titles, as we all know, are numerous at our schools.  

Watching Prince's journey from Episcopal to Millbrook has been a pure joy.  Over our time together, Prince has served as a brother to me.  There is not a time when he doesn’t make himself available for a Zoom, a text, or a FaceTime call.  

As Prince and I connected, I bumped into two independent school graduates, Maurice Plaines of Phillips Andover, now leading the Emerging Scholars Program, and Devandria Bernard of the Hill School, now working as an Admissions Officer at the Millbrook School.  

Finally, I bumped into Taaj Davis, a graduate of the Potomac School and now a faculty member at a school down in Orange, Virginia, that I will only name WFS.  

These photos resonate deeply with me because they show Black graduates returning to the independent school experience to support Black and ALL students.  

I close with this last photograph.  Two of my current advisees and my colleague, Jade Keimig from Seattle Academy.  

As I see these youthful faces each and every day, I take full responsibility for seeing them, hearing them, and showing them what it means to be them.  They must have a mirror of what BIPOC means as it relates to the independent school experience as a graduate, as a mentor, as a friend, and all things in between.  

Finally, I challenge all educators, BIPOC and non-BIPOC, how do you create comfort and a place of belonging for ALL of your students?  We as educators should surely be nurturing and sowing positive seeds in hopes that some of these students return to sub us out of the game of education and lead us to the next championship.  

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