Dear Academy Community,
I want to share the statement released by the Sisters of the Holy Names renouncing the actions of the Minneapolis police officer who took the life of George Floyd. As an SNJM school, we stand by the message of the Sisters.
We can hardly find words to express our horror at witnessing George Floyd beg for air as a Minneapolis policeman restrained him by kneeling on his neck until he died.
As Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary of the U.S.-Ontario Province, we join with those who condemn this outrageous act against a restrained and helpless black man.
We stand with those who advocate for the dignity and respect of every human life. We strongly reject the racism and hatred reflected in this action.
While we support peaceful protests against rampant racism, we condemn the destruction of property and the harming of persons involved. We call on our president and all leaders to exert moral influence by promoting peaceful means to deter the violence happening in so many cities.
We grieve with and for the families, friends and black communities that have endured so many traumatic killings and for whom George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor’s deaths are yet another harsh reminder of repeated injustice. We pray for urgently needed reforms in our society and our hearts, so that we may learn to live Jesus’ message to “love one another.”
When the Sisters of the Holy Names arrived in Tampa from Key West, their mission was to educate those who would not otherwise have the opportunity, namely people of color and women. The result is our current school, as well as St. Peter Claver, which has been educating students of color since 1894. As educators in an SNJM school, we continue to have the responsibility to open our minds and our hearts to implementing change and demonstrating that change to our students, especially for our students of color. We promote justice in our vision statement: “An Academy student is a catalyst for positive change. Guided by integrity, reason, and fairness, Academy students build community—internally, locally, and globally—by reaching out in service to others.” Now, more than ever, we need to live by our motto, Esse Quam Videri, or To Be, Rather Than to Seem.
To share with you, over the past few years the Academy has taken an active stance in improving diversity. Our student diversity club, POWER (Passionate Outstanding Women Encouraging Respect), has been a positive instrument for change through direct conversations with administration and student-driven events, such as their Black History Month programming. We have worked with a diversity trainer on the trustee, faculty and staff levels, and we appointed a coordinator for the Link Scholarship Program, a scholarship offered to students from diverse backgrounds, to serve as a liaison between Link families and the school. Additionally, we have actively engaged more people of color on our board and within our faculty and student body.
Recognizing that an education can be enhanced beyond our walls, the Academy has sent students and staff to learn from others. For the past three years, high school students and teachers have attended the National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference and Diversity Leadership Conference. The Academy is a founding member of the Central Florida Diversity Cohort, and in 2018 hosted the inaugural Tampa Bay Student Diversity Leadership Conference with other area independent schools.
While we continue the work started by Blessed Marie Rose, the foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Names, we must progress as a school community so all of our students feel safe, valued, and leave us as active contributors in the world. We need to be intentional as we approach the issue of racism both immediately and long term. We acknowledge that, as adults and educators, we need to hold uncomfortable conversations, and we owe it to our students to hold them. If you would like to ask questions of us, share your thoughts or concerns, or wish to join us in our diversity efforts, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This summer, I challenged our faculty and staff to think about the ways they can reach out in service, both personally and in the classroom. At the Academy, we have a goal to create lifelong learners. To that end, I encourage you to join us in learning how we can be agents of change. If you are a parent seeking resources to talk to your children, please see a few to get you started, below.
President, Academy of the Holy Names
Board Chair, Academy of the Holy Names
Incoming Board Chair, Academy of the Holy Names
Suggested Resources From NAIS*
- Talking to children after racial incidents (Penn GSE)
- George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. What do we tell our children?” (USA Today)
- Talking About Race (National Museum of African American History & Culture)
- Beyond the Golden Rule: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing and Responding to Prejudice (Teaching Tolerance)
- Understanding Race and Privilege (National Association of School Psychologists)
- 31 Children's books to support conversations on race, racism and resistance
*National Association of Independent Schools