We are excited to introduce our two new justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) student support and programming coordinators. This week we introduce you to B Garcia (who goes by Garcia with her students), who is new to Nueva and is working with preK through sixth grade. Next week we sit 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: Can you share a little bit about your background? How did you get to where you are in this new JEDI role?
B Garcia: I come from a blended family of musicians and entrepreneurs. As a Chicana (Mexican/American), I cherish my big and boisterous family. When my grandparents raised me as a young child, they placed a great deal of emphasis on learning. And my mother cultivated my creativity during my teenage years. With these dual supports, I became the first in my family to attend college. As I began to chart my educational path, first in college and later through two graduate degrees, I realized just how transformative learning could be.
Initially, I was interested in systems of oppression, so I pursued a graduate degree in criminal justice. Yet, after reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, I felt called to education as it seemed like the best way to bring about positive change for historically oppressed populations. With this realization, I took what seemed at the time to be a sharp pivot, and I studied education and literacy. I became a classroom teacher at an independent school in Brooklyn and realized that a great portion of my energy was dedicated to those community members that are often overlooked: girls. Seeing this need, I moved to San Francisco to teach at an independent all girls’ school. It was here that the intersection of my various passions collided. I designed curricula centered around underrepresented voices and experiences. The pivot I had made years prior was actually the dovetail I needed. I led fellow educators through the process of decolonizing curriculum. We focused on the histories of Native people and centered women and queer folks in our understanding of American history. I also led race-based affinity spaces for students in the lower school. As I made connections and built beautiful relationships, I noticed the great need of BIPOC students and families within independent schools, which led me to Nueva.
RF: What attracted you to this role? What challenges do you imagine might arise? What possibilities?
BG: I believe deeply in the notions of the Beloved Community and the importance of belonging. I know first-hand how people of color feel in institutions that were not built by them or for them.
I was drawn to the prospect of joining a community where so much thoughtful work had already been done to cultivate the tenets of the Beloved Community. The noticing of biases and the unlearning of oppressive language and behaviors are challenging, as these systems are so ingrained in our society. Yet, I was struck by the strength-based language often used by the Nueva community when thinking about historically underrepresented students and families. Most importantly, I enjoyed the thoughtful questioning and discussions at Nueva on how to cultivate a sense of belonging for every community member.
In this new role, along with my JEDI team and colleagues, I hope to dive more deeply into those questions of belonging. To find ways to see the strength, resilience and joy when learning about traditionally oppressed communities.
RF: Given that this role is brand new and you have the opportunity to shape it, what are your hopes and goals for JEDI work in the lower school?
BG: My goal is to create a space for our historically underrepresented community members where they feel seen and cherished at Nueva. My hope is that the JEDI space in the lower school will be a safe and empowering space for students to be their whole selves. It is also my goal to work alongside my colleagues to co-conspire and re-envision curricula from a social justice lens. The idea of radically seeing and teaching the various histories of oppressed communities brings my heart great joy. I am excited about highlighting histories, stories, and perspectives that allow students to see the strength and courage of underrepresented groups.
RF: What values inform your JEDI work?
BG: Joy: The histories of oppressed people are full of joy and LOVE! Teaching hard histories must be grounded in this first. Belonging: Fostering positive identity development. Leaning in to accept and understand someone else’s experience. Holding various truths: It’s important in this JEDI work to be able to see and understand alternative stories and experiences. Being okay with things feeling a bit sticky is helpful, as we give each other grace to do this important and challenging work.
RF: What are you most excited about?
BG: I am excited to get to know the Nueva community, one which contains so many diverse lived experiences. I am eager to be in learning spaces together and to share ideas around how we can create a sense of belonging. I intend to listen, to wonder, to find other folks who are ready to radically imagine what can be. I am thrilled to be inspired and co-conspire with my colleagues and new community.
RF: Outside of work, what are you passionate about?
BG: I am deeply passionate about play. I enjoy roller skating, dancing, paddleboarding, and longboarding with my rescue pup, Sgt. Scout. I also greatly enjoy design. I pay special attention to the ways that colors, patterns, textures, and light make me and others feel. I gravitate towards creating spaces that bring people together to dance, to have tea, to talk about books—to share experiences.