Committed to Equity and Justice
The University of Pittsburgh School of Education’s mission statement commits to educational equity and work for justice, and members of the 2019 EdD cohort are driven to live into that mission. In the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many other Black bodies, we are moved to take bold steps for justice. We have seen our colleagues’ passion and we are inspired by the ways our cohort continuously fights for freedom. We believe in the power of students from the Pitt School of Education, and we want to see that work expanded to future students. The Equity & Justice Spirit Award will support Black students in the School of Education by celebrating their efforts to promote equity and justice and building their capacity to advance that work moving forward.
The Equity & Justice Spirit Award
In its first semester together, the 2019 EdD cohort initiated a tradition to recognize and uplift fellow students. The Spirit Stick was a hollow cardboard tube wrapped in yellow Duct tape. At each class session, the prior recipient filled the tube with goodies, recognized the inspiring work of a fellow student through a brief speech, and passed the stick along to the new recipient. This tradition celebrated the inspiring work happening among us and built a community through encouragement. But, it was recently brought to our attention that, in Indigenous cultures, spirit sticks are treasured objects that take on sacred and medicinal significance. We now recognize that our use of the term “spirit stick” belittles this tradition. The 2019 EdD cohort spirit stick has been a source of encouragement and light for many of us in the past months, but now we have reassessed this practice and have come up with a new name that better honors its purpose: "The Equity and Justice Spirit Award.” We hope that moving forward this will be something we are all proud of and support.
We recognize that the pursuit of equity and justice is an effort that demands stamina and long-term commitment. Our ultimate goal is to gather at least $10,000, which will allow us to establish an endowed fund that will stand in perpetuity. We are beginning with those closest to us, asking that we can demonstrate our ability to live into our ideals by reaching at least $5,000 this summer. This will stand as evidence of the depth of our commitment that we can leverage when we expand our ask to a broader audience.
Every cent that we raise will be passed along to recipients of the newly founded Spirit Award. The award will be given to Black students at the Undergraduate, Masters, or Doctoral level who plan to serve as practitioners in a wide range of educational settings, including K-12, Higher Education, healthcare, informal learning, or other contexts. Recipients will be able to use the funds for tuition, books, supplies, or other educational costs. To extend the Spirit Stick’s legacy of community-building, members of the 2019 EdD cohort will also serve as mentors for award recipients, providing mentorship activities that celebrate successes, provide encouragement, and support accountability towards equity and justice.
Setting up an endowed fund is a bold goal. It means we need your support. Every dollar counts. If you are in the 2019 EdD cohort, we are asking you to give $150, the amount needed if the fundraising were split evenly across the cohort members to create an endowment. If you are not part of the 2019 cohort, we ask that you join us to ensure the impact of our efforts, in recognition that our abilities to give are not equal but are limited by the very inequities and injustices that this award addresses. We know $150 is a lot. But the injustice is vast. Will you commit, to honor the lives lost and to freedom dream through upcoming leaders? We need you now. Whatever you can give, your participation demonstrates your dedication to justice and to a re-envisioning of education that centers equity.
How You Can Help
- Donate now using this EngagePitt page!
- Share this campaign with friends, family, colleagues, and anyone you think would be interested - write an email, make a phone call, send a text, post on social media, and leverage your creative communication strategies. The broader the net, the better!
- Give up take-out for a month and donate the money you would have spent.
- Start your own fundraiser. You might make face masks and donate the proceeds. Or you could start a neighborhood car wash with your family and see what money you can raise. Your donation doesn’t all have to come out of your own pocket.
- Aside from financial contributions, you can support this work by dedicating yourself to equity and justice. If you are an EdD student, make equity and justice the focus of your problem of practice. Challenge yourself to disrupt structural racism. Lean into community to encourage others who do this work and to set up accountability systems that ensure the work will live on.
- Dream of freedom. Breathe it in. And then make it real.