Letter from Needham Steps Up to our community of mentors, donors, supporters and community members:
NSU's considered response to racism in our society
We, of Needham Steps Up (NSU), want to be clear that we stand in solidarity with protesters to not only condemn racism in all its forms but to reform or replace those systems in our society that lock in racism and all its harms. We, of NSU, care about inequities across income, race, gender, religion, immigration status, sexual orientation, abilities and every other means of diminishing the value of any human being. Our students, now more than ever, need to know how much potential each one has, how much we as a community care about each of them, and that we are here to support them in achieving their best in high school and beyond. NSU now serves 20 Needham High School students from income eligible families in Needham and Boston.
In March, more inequities for our students became apparent when schools closed and education turned to a remote platform. Did our students have the technology, the internet access, the quiet space to work, parents to support them who might be working from home, access to town resources, enough food to eat, etc.? Were they anxious about their family’s sources of income, did they need to care for younger siblings, was the health of their loved ones at higher risk?
And then, against this backdrop, police heinously and dispassionately murdered George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis, clearly not because he was a threat but because he was Black. The people, not just of Minneapolis, but people all across America, and here in Needham, continue to protest the immense injustices against Black people that began with slavery in 1619 and continue through Reconstruction, Jim Crow and even today in systemic ways in policing, criminal justice, health care, housing, and, yes, education.
For the future of our mentees, we cannot just work to support individual students, we need to address the broader inequities that impose systemic restraints on their hopes and their dreams. Many of our students deal with the intersectionality of race and economic status. Until we end racism and hold society responsible for giving all children the chance to fulfill their potential, we will not have done our job for our students.
Going forward NSU will:
Continue with one-one mentoring and current programming
Focus on systemic racism, and racism in Needham
Empower our Equity Committee, created earlier this year, to lead:
Educating us as a board and as individuals
Defining our next steps
Partnering as appropriate, with Needham Public Schools and other local organizations and groups
Focusing our work to ensure NSU students have equitable opportunities
Send out updates as this work develops
Merle Berman and Sue Neckes
NSU Board Co-Chairs
NSU Equity Committee Chair
The Mission of Needham Steps Up is to empower eligible, underserved students in the Needham Public Schools through trusted mentoring relationships that help develop the capabilities, and provide access to the resources, necessary to successfully navigate high school and achieve post-secondary goals.
What you can do:
Support our work through your donations or solicitations
Volunteer with us; apply to join our board
Educate yourself about the issues low income and students of color face in the NPS through the REAL Coalition including the 2018 Equity audit and ongoing work at http://www.needham.k12.ma.us/equity/r_e_a_l_coalition
Step Up With Us!
“Every student benefits from an adult, especially a teacher, who cares about them and offers support and encouragement. Access to a mentor, to enrichment opportunities, and to college and post-graduate options for some of our most vulnerable students can make all the difference. Thank you to the Needham community for generously supporting our students year after year".
Daniel E. Gutekanst, Superintendent, Needham Public Schools