How do you define equity? Tia Luck, Eagle County Schools Equity Coordinator, illustrates that equity is a term used so often. “Equity means something a little different to every person and it is rooted in our own identity and goals” Luck explains. Eagle County Schools defines equity in a manner that allows every student to feel valued and be successful without feeling the need to change who they are. Everything about them, their lives, and circumstances should contribute to them to feel valued at school.
Tia Luck and Eagle County Schools are taking initiative to improve opportunities for each student, regardless of differences that may include culture, race, gender identity, ability, age, beliefs, economics, learning preferences, academic history, and other factors. Eagle County Schools has always focused on being a safe place for all students. Tia believes that we are a community where all students are loved by their school and teachers. “By that definition, we have always been a district focused on equity. But it is not just about loving our students, it is about loving them along with understanding their backgrounds and circumstances, including looking at the historical context,” continues Luck. A component of the District’s deep equity work incorporates education and practices to improve understanding of the cultures and history our students are bringing, and then prioritizing opportunities to build bridges between people. Luck encourages this for adults and young people in the community. Michelle Stecher, Eagle County Schools Board of Education members and Mountain Youth executive director is thrilled about the increased investment of the District in equity. As Stecher explains, “Acknowledging the backgrounds of each of our students and the gift of unique perspectives is an advantage in the learning environments we are striving to create, and a boost for each student in their development.”
The overall vision for equity in Eagle County Schools is to take steps to eliminate the predictability of success. Currently, success is relatively predictable by certain demographics. Luck believes, “This is unjust. We are not going to see equal academic achievement until we first address access and opportunity.” Enter the Youth Equity Stewardship, where students join with teachers and district-level leaders to become more involved in working to have their voice heard and be leaders in impacting the environments in their schools. These young people are working with the Board of Education and various committees to help steer projects and address opportunities. In this manner, decisions are made WITH students and families versus FOR students and families. This aligns well with Mountain Youth’s goal of collaborating with youth to uplift their voices to guide the work of our organization, and the broader community. “Through the youth-led Valley’s Voice framework, a Parent Advisory Committee, and an extremely active Aprendiendo Juntos Spanish What’s App community, Mountain Youth is working in cooperation with the District and other community partners to build pipelines and to prioritize the voices of those most impacted by specific decisions,” explains Stecher.
The vision of Eagle County Schools starts with students and carries through staff, where waves of change in a sense of belonging for all people within our community can be felt. Luck offers a call to action. “We each have a responsibility to step outside of our normal circles. Get to know people who have different experiences than us. Start to build new and different mutual relationships. Through this, we can begin to understand different experiences and perspectives. We can find more in common with people we don’t normally connect with. It is natural to build relationships with people that have things in common with you. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s also important to step outside that comfortable space to help build a better, connected community,” Luck advises.
Tips to take action now:
Share experiences alongside people who have different perspectives than you.
Seek out opportunities to listen to and engage with topics and work important to you.
Embrace a mindset of serving WITH and not FOR others.
Collaborate. With a community rich in services and initiatives, research and join forces to strengthen local efforts.
Think locally. Needs exist here in our community, and there are plenty of opportunities to get involved.
Give generously. Be it via time or financial gifts, invest in efforts addressing equity and working tireless to build bridges.
Learn more about the great work being led by Eagle County Schools at https://www.eagleschools.net/sites/default/files/website/Communications/19-20StratPlanPagesRev.pdf