Last week the Winooski Antiracism Steering Committee (ARSC) learned the exciting news that the School Board has allocated the necessary funding to contract with a Multilingual Mentor Program Coordinator! Creating a multilingual mentorship program is one of the six antiracism demands approved by the Winooski School Board in 2020.  The next steps will be to post the position and to begin accepting applications. The ARSC wants to express their deep gratitude to Winooski Middle School math teacher Maeve Poleman, the adult lead for this action team, as well as the many youth and other community members who have been integral to achieving this demand. We also want to thank Superintendent Wilmer Chavarria and the Board for their belief and investment in the work of the ARSC. 

The fifth meeting of the year began with a pizza dinner and an opening circle, when each member of the team each shared a highlight of their Thanksgiving break. While there was joy as students shared stories of gathering with family and friends, there was also an unmistakable heaviness to the circle, as on many people’s minds was the horrific shooting of three Palestinian college students by a white man in Burlington on November 25th. The youth facilitators, 11th graders Auishma Pradhan and Mea Ree Jan, wanted to create space for people to share their thoughts and feelings about the event, so the facilitators asked each member to turn and talk to a partner. Auishma and Mea Ree then opened up the discussion for people to share their thoughts and feelings with the whole team. Several members expressed their sadness and anger, as well as their desire for an increased sense of safety in their community. 

The youth and adults have many ideas about what they, as a group devoted to antiracism, can do in response to the act of violence. Some of the ideas that came out of the discussion were to write letters to the mayoral candidates in Burlington expressing their desire for change around gun laws and racism, to host a sit-in to share their thoughts, to take some sort of action on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and to facilitate discussions about the event during upcoming advisories or community meetings. During their next gathering on December 11th, the team will determine which actions they would like to take. 

The committee then got into small groups to look over and make edits to the survey they have been creating, which poses questions about the ARSC and the status of the antiracism demands. On December 11th, they will look over the final draft of the survey, and determine when and how they will distribute it to youth, teachers, administration, and community members.

We are thrilled by the news of the funding of the Multilingual Mentorship Program Coordinator position, and heartened by this team’s thoughtful and action-oriented response to the violence in our community.