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By Ashley Han,
Adults and students filled the Brunelle Performance Hall at Davis High to experience the 10th Anniversary Equity Reunion and Lunch. The Race and Social Justice (RSJ) students and assistant adjunct professor Jann Murray-Garcia presented in the morning. Many DHS student joined in the afternoon to listen to keynote speaker Melba Beals speak about her experience as one of the Little Rock Nine students who were the first black students to be integrated into Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957.
A light breakfast was provided around 8 in the morning along with a welcome and introduction speech by Murray-Garcia and Superintendent Winfred Roberson. Roberson thanked the students for enrolling in the RSJ course and the teachers for supporting it because it has grown significantly in recent years.
DHS social studies teacher Kevin Williams presented next about the impact the class has made to the school and the city of Davis. Williams, who first designed the RSJ curriculum, believes that test scores are not the most crucial aspect of a student’s education, but after the creation of RSJ, students scored 12 percent higher in the proficient level on the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) test and 10 percent higher in the advanced level.
The 2014 Leadership in Diversity Student Research Scholars followed with an update to the audience on their extensive research. These students (which include Enrique Arechiga, Gabriel Garcia, Jacob Guerrero, Carina Hinton, Ricky Houck, Kailey Smith, Elijah Smith, Hannah Thompson, Zoe Vikstrom, Nickolas Vives and Deon Wilkins) spent more than 40 hours over the summer researching and adding their data to the data collected for the past 10 years.
The data included research from former Youth in Focus, former Catalysts for Social Justice (CSJ) and former RSJ students. Andrew Tkach, mentioned by Williams in his speech, was one of the first RSJ students at DHS. Tkach recalls his first experience in the new curriculum.
“It was an amazing experience. Everyone that first year chose to be in that class. We didn’t know anything about it, so in a lot of ways we were all taking a risk to be a part of that, and yet it was something we all chose to do. I think because of that it just had a great atmosphere in the class of being able to pursue these issues of diversity, challenging historical narrative. It goes beyond just Eurocentric one but also includes multiple points of view. So for me it was a wonderful experience,” Tkach said.
Roberson was particularly proud of the RSJ students and their efforts to change racial stereotypes.
“First of all, I’m very proud of the students. They did a wonderful job in presenting the data,
researching the data and then sharing it with the audience. [This event] will make a difference. I think as these students continue to take RSJ and learn, it will raise awareness of the students. [It] will continue to create empathy with the students about what’s happening with other groups, and, yes, it will make a difference,” Roberson said.
After the RSJ presentation, a few adults asked the students questions about their work. Carl Mack is a former DHS parent and recalled his experience with his children going to DHS.
In addition, Jacqualine Combs-Lacuergs was also a DHS parent. She expressed her appreciation for the RSJ students’ wor, and shared her ideas about racism.
Around 11 a.m., many more DHS students joined the audience to listen to Beals. She immediately caught the audience’s attention with her humor and charming personality.
Many students, parents and other community members had the opportunity to ask Beals questions about her experience in high school and other personal questions.
The event ended with a book signing of Beals’ work, “Warriors Don’t Cry.” Junior Carina Hinton truly enjoyed Beals’ visit to DHS and felt inspired by her work.
“I just thought [Beals’ speech] was super motivational, and after reading her book and getting to see her talk was just a really good experience, and I was awestruck meeting her and asking her questions and talking to her. It was unbelievable. I’m really grateful about that experience,” Hinton said.
Beals ended with this maxim: “The god in me is the god in you, namaste, I must let you understand that all the answers to all of your questions is love.”