“I don’t want you to be colorblind. I want you to see my color.”
Those were the personal words Robert Sheffield, director of Quality Schools and Districts for WestEd, shared during an OCDE-organized event celebrating Black History Month on Feb. 25.
“I want you to see that I am Black and to learn my story and my history,” said Sheffield.
Sharing stories, examining the needs and challenges for Orange County’s African American students and honoring their accomplishments was the mission of the virtual colloquium that featured the personal accounts and experiences of six panelists. Each offered advice and strategies for ensuring equity, opportunity and inclusion.
“Education can change the lives of children, especially those that come from marginalized backgrounds,” said Sheffield. “Teachers must have high expectations and offer the same support for all students.”
The event drew nearly 150 participants and was hosted by Orange County Superintendent Dr. Al Mijares. Other speakers included UCI Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Dr. Willie L. Banks, Tustin Mayor Letitia Clark, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union Senior Vice President Kevin Martin, Laguna Hills High alumn Alyssa Simmons and Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, vice provost of enrollment management at UCLA.
Leveraging the theme “Know My Name, Face and Story, panelists shared a common perspective — the need for educators to “lean in” and set the bar high for all students, most notably students of color.
“We need to commit to knowing the name, the face and the story of our students, and understand that the stories will look different,” Copeland-Morgan said.
“We should not discourage students from telling their stories. We have to have an expectation and insist that every student is prepared for college.”
Dr. Mijares concluded the event by presenting three community leaders with the newly created Martin Luther King, Jr. Service Award, reflecting the iconic civil rights leader’s legacy of service.
The inaugural honorees are Dr. Lisa Kirtman, dean of the College of Education at Cal State Fullerton; Orange County Health Care Officer Dr. Clayton Chau, who also leads the OC Health Care Agency; and Nina Boyd, an associate superintendent with the Orange County Department of Education.
For those unable to attend, a video recording of the forum can be viewed below.