Solidarity: An Open Letter to our Scholars

Dear Scholars,

This weekend, I took my son to Harambee, which is a Kenyan tradition that means “all pull together” in Swahili.  As we drummed, tears filled my eyes. The joy and warmth of reggae music with children contrasted so harshly with the divisive actions of our new president in his first three weeks. I was overwhelmed.

I’m hearing from you and our dedicated center staff that some of you are overwhelmed too.

  • You may have seen stories of people turned away from our country at airports because of their nationality or religion.
  • You may have heard that our new Secretary of Education has questioned the rights of disabled students and the role of public schools, and has supported guns in schools.
  • You may have heard stories about our country building a wall to block people from Mexico and about people who are worried about losing health care.

As a middle school scholar, this must be a lot to process. As a 40-year old woman, it is a lot for me to process. This intolerance and chaos breeds fear, and it is runs counter to our mission.

Amidst this chaos, I am writing to assure you that we have your back. As you’ve learned at center, one of our social justice principles is solidarity. Solidarity means a feeling of unity between people who have the same interests and goals. This has been a core principle for 41 years, and it has never been more important.

Together, our solidarity comes from many shared interests and goals, including:

  • Our country, our schools, and our centers should welcome and embrace the idea that we are stronger together, when we learn from each other across difference: race, gender, ability, religion, immigration status, sexual orientation, income, language, and more.
  • Public schools matter. School choice only works when there is a wide range of strong options available.
  • Bigotry, in any form, is unacceptable. We must actively counter stereotypes.
  • Always be kind. We cannot fight hate with more hate.  We must be firm and active – but always kind.

Over the next several weeks, we will share reflections on our other three social justice principles as well: freedom, voice, and justice. But, I want to hear YOUR reflections too. I’ll be visiting Centers to listen and learn from you. I encourage you to reflect in your mentoring groups. I also encourage you to write your answer to the following question on a strip of paper, and work with your Center Director to create a paper chain – to represent the strength of our Higher Achievement family.

Paper chain question:  “How can we work together to build a more united community?”

Scholars, when I get worried about the state of the world, you lift me up. You are brilliant and fiercely dedicated to your studies and your futures. When I envision a future led by you, it gives me hope. To get to that bright future, we need harambee. Let’s all pull together – now.

– Lynsey Wood Jeffries, Higher Achievement CEO