We are excited to introduce our two new justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) student support and programming coordinators. Last week we introduced you to B Garcia (who goes by Garcia with her students), who is new to Nueva and is working with preK through sixth grade. This week we sat down with Alison Williams, who just began her sixth year at Nueva and is working with grades seven through 12. In these new roles, B and Alison will help expand our JEDI program, supporting organization-wide JEDI initiatives and overseeing equity-focused student programming and support services. Additionally, they will work with administration to review and develop policies and programming to foster inclusivity, diversity, equity and a sense of belonging across campus for all students. Finally, they will manage our THRIVE program—a student-centered advocacy program for historically underrepresented groups within independent schools.
Rachel Freeman: What drew you to this role? Why did you want to transition from your middle school SEL role?
AW: I wouldn’t say that this is necessarily a transition; rather it is a continuation of the work I’ve been doing during my time at Nueva. I came to Nueva to help develop and grow the JEDI program, and I’m very excited to have a full time position dedicated to this stage of our growth.
I’m also excited to be moving up with our rising ninth graders. I worked with this grade when they were in middle school on a lot of foundational work in SEL, and teaching Science of Mind (SOM) with this grade is the right place to continue to build the Beloved Community. I am continuing to serve as THRIVE coordinator, which I’ve done for three years, because I want to think strategically about systems of support for our underrepresented students so that they can access all that Nueva has to offer. This new role is the perfect combination of the things I love about Nueva: SEL and JEDI.
RF: What do you see is the importance of this JEDI work at Nueva? What values inform your JEDI work?
AW: As a place for gifted learners, Nueva is this place where they can be their true authentic selves. We also know that for some students, their identities are not always fully seen. I think it’s our mission to lift up all gifted children so that they can come with their lived experiences and intersecting identities and truly feel part of this Beloved Community. We value understanding ourselves as humans with lived experiences. It’s so important for a learning community to see one another authentically and vulnerably.
I come to this work with love, community, and empowerment. I apply an intersectional lens to everything I do; I believe the various identities we hold shape our views and perspectives and should be valued and cherished. This is our collective work towards liberation. While liberation can feel hard to attain, through classroom dialogues I hope people can see that it is possible.
What do you hope to do in this role? What challenges do you imagine might arise? What possibilities?
My goal is to get systems and structures in place. For the past six years we have done some amazing programming, and there is also room for growth in terms of partnerships with different stakeholders. I’ll still be in the classroom [teaching ninth-grade SOM], but I will have more time to create relationships with parents, administrators, and teachers so that there is more clarity around the work we are doing. We want there to be entry points for all community members to get involved in building the Beloved Community.
I think there’s a challenge of making sure we have a collective foundational understanding of systemic oppression. Every year we welcome folks into our community and we have folks who have been in our community for decades, so it is important to ensure we are all working from the same baseline. I am hoping to create community conversations so if folks have questions there is space for them to ask those questions. I want to make sure there are spaces for all of us to lean in and learn together.
I would also love to have a speaker series. We’ve had some really great panels of community members sharing their experiences, and I’d love to build on that and bring in outside speakers doing JEDI work. I’m really excited to partner with Alegria and B, because now we have a way to scaffold and create cross divisional programming and cohesion around our JEDI goals.
Can you share a little bit about your background? How did you get to where you are in this new JEDI role?
My educational background is in social work, so I’ve always leaned towards advocacy and an interest in ensuring people have the resources they need to thrive, specifically thinking about marginalized voices. Prior to Nueva, I worked with refugee populations, people living with HIV, and those living in transitional housing. I supported LGBT communities and to make sure they have access to medical and housing resources.
Through that work I realized that education is really one of the most empowering tools someone can have. I was excited to transition into education, and I first did that through teaching comprehensive sexuality education at Planned Parenthood. In this work, I supported teachers and administrators in ensuring their campuses were inclusive for queer kids and made sure students had access to reproductive health care. I really liked being in the classroom. I am grateful that I stumbled on to Nueva on a whim and saw the JEDI job posting, and I’ve been here ever since.
What are you most excited about?
I am excited to hold Nueva accountable. Nueva has made a commitment to this JEDI work, and I am excited to be part of the team that helps hold us accountable. I think the development of this team is a move in the right direction.
Outside of work, what are you passionate about?
Before the pandemic, I loved live music; you could often catch me at live shows, and I collect vinyl records. I got a bike over this summer, so I’m getting into biking in and exploring Oakland.