Members of the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE’s) Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council (SAC) have teamed up with Thomas Woods-Tucker, KDE deputy commissioner and chief equity officer, to create a video to discuss what equity means to them.
The video is part of an ongoing equity and inclusion project led by Tucker and Anastasia Panaretos, a sophomore at South Oldham High School (Oldham County). Tucker and Panaretos, along with Wallace Caleb Bates, Breathitt County High School, and Anna Williams, a graduate of Anderson County High School, presented the video to the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) during its June 2 regular meeting.
“It isn’t every day that high school students get to work with a top state education official on a project as important as equity,” said Panaretos.
In the video, several SAC members take turns defining equity, explaining how it is different than equality, and sharing what equity means to them as students.
“To me, equity means allowing every student in the Commonwealth to have opportunities and supporting them with the resources they need,” said Solyana Mesfin, KBE’s ex officio student member and a junior at Eastern High School (Jefferson County).
Anna Williams, a senior at Anderson County High School, explained that equity can help ensure student success and encourage students to become more involved in their interests.
“Equity means people of any color aren’t labeled and confined to a specific pathway of life,” said Williams.
Wallace Caleb Bates, a recent graduate of Breathitt County High School, said there is an issue of equity in schools, citing KDE’s School Report Card that shows during the 2019-2020 school year, more than 60% of Kentucky’s students were economically disadvantaged.
“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic’s disruption to education as we know it, we have seen just how tough situations are,” said Bates. “But that does not mean the issue is too large to fix.”
The students close the video by listing ways that viewers can help ensure equity in education, such as providing mentorship and internships programs for minorities, encouraging school and district accountability systems, and providing resources on ways to implement an equitable curriculum.
KBE members praised the students for their project and encouraged them to not give up.
“Don’t get frustrated. It takes a long time to make change, and you’re doing it,” said KBE member Lee Todd.
“That was an outstanding presentation,” said KBE member Alvis Johnson. “My hat goes off to this group of young people and Dr. Tucker.”
As the student-run project continues, more pieces will be added, including a podcast, newspaper articles, and collecting and sharing personal stories from people across the Commonwealth about inequities they faced and how it has affected them. The articles and podcasts will come out later this year.
SAC members will continue the equity project through the summer as new members join the council.