March 19, 2021: Scholar Multicultural Diversity and Equity Cadre

We meet a couple of our LPS students who have dedicated their time and energy to helping Lincoln Public Schools in improving our work in equity. Don Mayhew visits with Deseree, Andrea, and LPS Youth Development Team Coordinator Pete Ferguson about the Scholar Multicultural Diversity and Equity Cadre.

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Video Transcript

Mindy Burbach 0:18
Hello and welcome to LPS board update. I’m LPS Communications Director Mindy Burbach.

Don Mayhew 0:23
And I’m Don Mayhew Lincoln Board of Education member. This is an opportunity for us to learn about what’s happening around Lincoln Public Schools and for you, our community to ask questions.

Mindy Burbach 0:33
If you do have any questions, please type them into the chat and we will respond during our live show on Tuesday. Today, we’re going to meet a couple of our LPS scholars who have dedicated their time and energy to helping Lincoln Public Schools and improving our work in equity.

Don Mayhew 0:47
Lincoln Public Schools continues to embrace equity, inclusion and the value of diversity. We acknowledge that in schools across the country, including at LPS, the outcomes for all of our students are not equitable. At LPS, we will continue to identify and address practices that are contributing to these inequitable outcomes and work to eradicate racism. Helping us with this important work are Pete Ferguson, LPS Youth Development Team coordinator and two of our scholars: Deseree and Andrea. Thank you all for joining us.

Pete Ferguson 1:24
Thanks for having us Don

Don Mayhew 1:26
Pete, let’s start with you. Your involvements include long standing personal and professional community work with service organizations. This includes youth and adult leadership development, with many being aware of your work with area scholars and the coordination of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Rally and March. But you are working year round with many different scholars from all over Lincoln Public Schools to help elevate their voices. One of those groups is the Lincoln Public Schools scholar, multicultural diversity and equity cadre which also consists of a speaker’s bureau. First, please describe the work that you’ve been doing with this group.

Pete Ferguson 2:05
Awesome. Again, thanks, Don. I’ve really appreciate it. And you’ll get to hear from some gems of our district and Deseree and Andrea, here in a moment. So, you know, the work that I’ve had the opportunity to do is be involved with scholars that empower, elevate and educate. And I have had that great fortune to just have that opportunity to hopefully provide some space some opportunities. I think our overarching purpose is to provide insight and voice to oftentimes vastly underrepresented scholars on matters that directly and indirectly impact their peers and families and their educational journeys. I think ultimately, what we want is to have scholar opportunities, scholar purpose, and honestly meaningful and intentional spaces that they can serve as that liaison kind of between the greater district, the scholar body, the district administration, our community organizations and hospices that supports them and commits them to supporting oftentimes historically underrepresented groups. And so that, for me has been truly a lifelong pleasure, but also just something that I think each and every scholar in our district deserves the opportunity to do and fortunately, we’re in a district that provides those spaces and is open to having those lenses and those individuals at the table.

Don Mayhew 3:27
Empower, elevate and educate. I love that. Your group is also working on developing the next staff development module. First talk for a second about what those staff development modules are. The principal’s work on those in each of the buildings every month, is that correct?

Pete Ferguson 3:42
Right. Correct. Like I said, I like to call it the the legs team is it’s our equity, it’s our Lincoln Public Schools equity group under the direction of Dr. Vann Price, Walter Powell, who’s our multicultural district administrator, and then myself get the opportunity to to honestly channel what many in this district have done well before us are currently doing and after us into having us take additional looks at equity and being having a critical eye on it. And so the scholars themselves, the modules are built to support, are built to provide resources but also built to challenge in a way the system and some systemic practices to enhance that that desire. Wilson said is so every scholar can touch the floor. And and, and have those opportunities.

Don Mayhew 4:38
And I think he already kind of addressing that but flesh that out a little bit. Why is it so important for our staff to hear from our students?

Pete Ferguson 4:44
Yeah, I think it’s absolutely important because I think what oftentimes they’re our, they’re our consumer, you know, they’re they’re the individuals as we talked about going out into being ready for a global economy. And so I think what it is, is it’s important that we have these modules and have supports and resources and the scholars provide what kind of scholarly experience they not only want to have, but they should have. And so they’re going to provide some insight. They’re going to provide some grace, some support and resources, and establishing what that scholarly experience should look like for them to go on to be successful in a global economy.

Don Mayhew 5:23
Fantastic. Pete, thank you so much. Now, I’ve got some questions for our scholars Deseree and Andrea, I’ve got some questions for both of you. And I think what I’ll do is kind of just go back and forth. Deseree, let’s start with you. First, tell us a little bit about yourself, your purpose, where do you go to school? What are you involved in? And what are your future interests?

Deseree 5:44
My name is Deseree. And I’m a senior at Southeast High School. I like to identify myself as a young, proud Hispanic native woman. I was born and raised in Austin, Texas, and I moved here my freshman year of high school. And that included a huge lifestyle difference, which took some time to adjust to, although I learned to love Lincoln as my home. So I’m involved in a lot of equity groups, along with Pete, which I also want to thank him a lot for, I plan on attending UNL this fall, majoring in Business Administration and also going into law. I actually got a full ride into UNL, which I’m super excited about and proud about. And for my purpose, I feel it’s more about my passions. When I work with this equity work, and just life in general, I ensure that the passion is there. And my intent is not only to educate others, but to also gain knowledge on anything I may be unaware of. And also seeing everything through different perspectives. I believe knowledge is power. I always say that, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. So that’s what I do. And that’s what I plan on always doing.

Don Mayhew 6:57
Lifelong learner. That’ll serve you. Well.

Thank you.

All right, Andrea, same question for you. Tell us a little bit about yourself, your purpose, where you go to school, what you were involved in, and what are your future interests?

Andrea 7:10
Sounds good. Um, so first off, thank you for the invitation to be here. My name is Andrea. I’m a senior at East. I’m involved. I’m an ambassador, I do speech mock trial I was in TCA in the criminal justice pathway. I’m leading the work here at East with our own kind of equity cadre, and seeing what we can do here locally at East I’m in Key Club, I work a job and I also teach Sunday school. Um, and my plans for the future. I plan to go off to UNL this fall as well, I’m going to be an English major pre-law, I’m planning to be a either a criminal defense attorney or an immigration lawyer focusing my work on criminal reform and public service. And I would say my purpose is to teach as well as to educate. I guess my biggest goal is to open as many minds as I can and kind of open the conversation about race, and every place that I step into and every every conversation that I enter.

Don Mayhew 8:15
Fantastic. Both of you ladies are clearly so impressive. Andrea, let’s, let’s stick with you for a second. Why are you involved or feel that these groups are an important way for you to be involved in Lincoln Public Schools.

Andrea 8:29
I have two younger sisters that are in LPS, one in which is here at East with me, and the other is at Eastridge. And I think back to being a young Brown Girl. Being a Latinx girl at a majority white school of Spanish being my first language being an ELL student, the things that I experienced both in elementary school and middle school. And it really makes me think of the future it really makes me think of the different generations that are going to come that I don’t want them to experience what I did, I think of my younger sister, you know, and then my kids are the future generations. I don’t want them to sit at a table and have this conversation again, just like I did. So my biggest goal and my biggest kind of motivation to be involved in all this to have these conversations is to change things for the better for the future generations so that they don’t have to sit here and do this as well.

Don Mayhew 9:32
Oh, that’s fantastic. How about you Deseree same question, Why are you involved or feel that these groups are an important way for you to be involved in Lincoln Public Schools?

Deseree 9:41
Well, um, this work holds a very personal importance for me as well and outside of I just feel like the reason why I really and truly am involved in these groups in and outside of LPS is not only for personal gain, but it’s more of a broader picture. I Like along with what Andrea said, This work is being done for future generations to come, this work is being done for them. And we have a serious, systematic racial injustice issue not only in this community or state, but in this country. And we have spent too long trying and trying to change. And it’s come to the point where we have to demand this change. And so I feel like if we have to bring the solutions to the table ourselves, in order to make this change, that I am most definitely willing to do that. And that is why I am doing what I do in these groups.

Don Mayhew 10:31
We we stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us and you two ladies are clearly going to provide shoulders for future generations to stand on. Deseree, let me ask you what is one thing that you would like others to immediately understand about this moment in time for you as a scholar of color?

Deseree 10:49
One thing that I would like others to immediately understand about this moment in time for me as a scholar of color, is that we are fighting this fight against racial injustice, and that I will not stop until this discriminatory lifestyle that we have almost adapted to is gone. And we should not have to ask for fair treatment in life. And our capabilities should not be determined by false determinations based on the color of our skin.

Don Mayhew 11:16
Andrea, same question for you, what is one thing that you would like others to immediately understand about this moment in time for you as a scholar of color?

Andrea 11:26
I guess especially when I sit through conversations, or I try to teach other people, I guess what I want everybody to know is that it is not my job as a person of color to teach you about your own, you know, your own white supremacy or your own racism. And I think I say that, because I think I’m overcoming these challenges such as, you know, white supremacy, and white privilege are all extremely personal things, and you have to do your own education and have your own conversations. And you have to open your mind, I can’t do that for you. And so I think I think that’s the biggest thing I think people need to know, it’s, it’s not my job to teach you, I’m more than willing to help. But I think kind of going deep within and doing your own research and your own learning new things on your own is, it’s really what’s gonna make the change.

Don Mayhew 12:25
So that being said, What lessons do you hope to share with our staff members in our community?

Andrea 12:31
I would say for me, as I said before, I my biggest goal, and the biggest thing I want to teach everyone is to come to a conversation with an open mind. I often have, you know, people that I’ve met, especially going to majority white schools that have never had an interaction with, you know, a person of color, and so really open people’s minds to having this conversation. Because racism, you know, a lot of people don’t see it, which is why a lot of people don’t believe it exists. And so being able to be open minded when you’re having an open mind when you’re having these conversations, I think is really important. And also as Deseree said, you know, the, the value of knowledge of being able to, you know, learn from your peers and learn from others around you, I think are the biggest things that I think everybody should know, and

Don Mayhew 13:27
Deseree same question for you, what lessons do you hope to share with our staff members in our community?

Desere 13:33
Well, what I plan to share with our staff members and our community is as a whole, you have an impact on our youth. And these fine scholars are the members of our new generation to come and every educator and community member has a great influence on them and I think we tend to forget about that at times. And you know, every single youth member of this community deserves that equitable education that we keep talking about. And I think this equitable education can definitely serve as its start towards the fight against racial injustice. And I also feel it should be known that we need to embrace our backgrounds and culture, we should not have to leave who we are at the door to be enough, because we are all enough just the way we are.

Don Mayhew 14:18
Andrea, Deseree, thank you so much for joining us for this conversation. Thank you for the work that you do. You’re clearly impressive, motivated young women and I’m so glad for the chance to have been able to talk with you a little bit today. Pete, also to you, thank you so much for the work that you do and for joining us today. Thanks, guys.

Mindy Burbach 14:40
Don, what an amazing interview with a couple of our scholars Deseree and Andrea. I can’t wait to see what they do in the future and their work and we’ve already seen a little bit of their work here this school year and Pete and the work he’s doing with our scholars one amazing interview that was today.

Don Mayhew 14:57
They were so impressive Mindy. So articulate and, and so forthright, just speaking from their hearts and they were just sharing their perspective, their reality and then and then saying what they were going to do to fix the world. Just very incredibly young women.

Mindy Burbach 15:11
And a very important perspective, I think it’s important that we hear from I think they said, you know, it’s important that educators hear from our students and what they’re experiencing. And so that’s how we can further along the conversation, and I appreciate that.

Don Mayhew 15:23
Me too. That was a fantastic conversation. All right, that’s all the time we have for today.

Mindy Burbach 15:29
Our next Lincoln Public Schools board update will be live on Facebook Tuesday, March 23, at 5pm. Just remember that you can submit your questions on our Facebook page or on our website, Just click on the blue contact us button. And with that, thank you for joining us.