Changemakers In Our Midst

January 2, 2017

Around this time every year, I’m reminded of my first holiday season in the United States, when I was barely four years old. As recent refugees, my family had settled in the Washington, D.C. area in the spring of 1975, barely escaping the fall of Saigon and its aftermath. As the holidays approached, the weather grew cold. I recall that I was aware of the spirit of giving that surrounds this season, but that I also didn’t make a wish list or even have an expectations of gifts. There wasn’t money for that.

Then one evening in late December a church volunteer, dressed in red, came over and handed out gifts to everyone in my large family. Mine was a puffy red coat with snowflakes on it and matching red mittens. I was so excited to put it on, a coat much warmer than any I had owned, and felt fully embraced by the kindness of people in the new country that would become my home.

Thus began my journey to find ways to serve others, and especially to provide for every child the sense of safety and care that I had felt as an early immigrant to this country. This is why being at Prospect Sierra has been such an inspiration to me.

At our most recent PSPA coffee, convened by Director of Diversity & Inclusion Britt Anderson and PSPA President Jennie Watson-Lamprey, we heard from people in our community who have been taking action, showing compassion, and living Prospect Sierra’s values. One was Lilah Kendall, whose family has welcomed a Syrian refugee family into their home for a year. Another was Sandra Collins, whose daughter Scarlett taught her how to create safe spaces for transgender children in the Bay Area and beyond. And we heard from Madeleine Rogin, kindergarten teacher, who has been engaging our youngest students in conversations about race and Black Lives Matter as part of their changemaker studies. She joins a large number of Prospect Sierra faculty who actively teach about social justice. In all of the above stories of action and changemaking, and the discussion among parents that followed, we could see the remarkable work of role models in our community being changemakers and embodying Prospect Sierra’s mission.

In December we also heard from our brave third graders who volunteered on their own time to be activists in support of the Standing Rock Reservation. After having learned about Native Americans in their humanities curriculum, one student presented an oral project about her aunt’s involvement in providing much-needed resources to water protesters blocking the Dakota Access Pipeline construction, and camping in harsh conditions. Our students jumped at the chance to make a difference and they put together an impressive lesson that they shared at Tapscott Monday Morning Meeting. Besides building awareness for their peers of this current event, the third graders have begun to see the impact they can make as changemakers, however young or small they are.

If you’re interested in getting involved in some of the changemaker actions that have been mentioned above, I’ve listed the resources provided to us by those individuals who have taken action below.

Finally, if your entire family is compelled to do something, please join us for All Together Now on Sunday, January 29. We will gather at Tapscott at 11:45 a.m. for a potluck lunch and then go out into our community to engage in service until 3 p.m. Stay tuned for more details in January, or contact Britt Anderson at banderson@prospectsierra.org if you’d like to help.

When one person shows support and compassion for another, an entire community is lifted. These are just a few examples of changemakers in our midst who have inspired us to continue to take action and to find ways to further Prospect Sierra’s core values of respect, fairness, compassion, diversity, and service. During this season, consider those who have less and provide support with small and large actions. As Ghandi said, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” The academic program at Prospect Sierra provides students the content knowledge, critical thinking skills, and a deep understanding of human emotions to support them as they go forth to gently shake the world and make it better.

Syrian refugees

  • Jewish Family and Community Service-East Bay: “Promotes the wellbeing of individuals and families by providing essential mental health and social services through every stage of life.”
  • International Rescue Committee (IRC): The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future.

Building resiliency skills for gender nonconforming and transgender kids

  • Bay Area Rainbow Day Camp is the first day camp for gender nonconforming and transgender kids and is hosted at Prospect Sierra by the nonprofit EnGender, led by Prospect Sierra parent and trustee, Sandra Collins.
  • Gender Spectrum is a great resource for everyone interested in challenging the gender binary and creating gender inclusivity for everyone.

Racial justice

#No DAPL- protecting the water on the Standing Rock reservation

  • Oceti Sakowin Camp: Oceti Sakowin Camp is a unified encampment of water protectors dedicated to protecting our land and water against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
  • Standing Rock: The Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council is a governing body empowered by the SRST Constitution committed to promoting an environment for the self-sufficiency of all tribal members.
  • Indian Country Media Network