“We don’t have to change the whole world.
But if we start with our agency, and help even one person shift their thought process, then we’ve done a good job.”
  – Erica Clay, Mid-Elementary Teacher, Irene M. Hunt School
When Erica Clay, a teacher at Side by Side’s Irene M. Hunt School (pictured left), spoke her heart at a recent staff meeting, it set off a cascade of support. More importantly, her words inspired the school to take a stand for social justice, speak out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and better address racism and social justice in its curriculum.

The original topic of the meeting was planning for an end-of-year video to help students feel connected. “We were missing them, wishing they could be back on campus,” says middle school teacher Caitlin O’Callaghan.

But, in light of recent events, Clay felt that the video topic should be changed to honor victims of police brutality. “The mistreatment of black Americans is affecting me in a very personal way,” explained Clay. “It was heavy in my heart. I felt that we should use the video to demonstrate that we truly are Side by Side – that the Hunt School community stands by the agency name.”
Everyone immediately came together to support Clay’s idea. “The passion that was being expressed was incredible,” says Hunt School Director Jolene Yee.

Staff members were asked to film themselves holding up a sign with the names of the victims they chose to honor. “We encouraged staff to look up victims' stories so that they could connect with them on a personal level,” says Clay. “It’s not just a name, it’s a person and they have a story.”

The staff videos started streaming in that very day and in two short days, videos were collected from 29 staff members. Upper elementary teacher Chloe Lechuga coordinated the video production and editing, creating a powerful statement of solidarity and support that we are privileged to share with you (please note that this video may be triggering or disturbing for some).
According to Yee, “This is just a jumping off point. We’re also making changes in the classrooms and are planning to study ethnic studies and social justice throughout the year, not just during Diversity Month.” O’Callaghan adds that the conversation created an opportunity to prioritize the voices of the people of color on the Hunt staff. “This is a time of learning and growing for us all.”

“I think the making of this video was a catalyst for change,” says Lechuga. “It brought us together. As far away as we are physically from each other, we have never felt closer.”

As for Clay, she says she feels overwhelmed and hopeful: “I feel heard and really supported by our leadership. I can’t thank Jolene and Mary (Denton, Side by Side’s CEO) and the staff enough. It makes me proud to work at Side by Side – this agency is everything we think it is.” 
“I have never been more proud to be a part of an organization.”
– Caitlin O’Callaghan, Middle School Teacher, Irene M. Hunt School
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