We would like to update the alumnae/i community on some of the initiatives and plans organized by the HCHSAA Diversity Committee. Detailed below are outcomes of important programs and events including the Hunter entrance exam, a proposed mentoring plan formulated by the Diversity Committee’s Retention sub-committee, and ongoing student internships.
For the better part of two years, COVID-19 impacted our world and changed how we lived. Though efforts are being made for society to engage in activities to regain a sense of normalcy, there is a new normal in how we connect and communicate with others. The expanded use of computer platforms for online meetings provided increased opportunities to reach out and engage in active communication across the country and the world. The HCHSAA has been using this to its advantage. We have expanded our outreach to alums outside of the New York area and are involving more of you in the conversation and activities of the Diversity Committee.
Throughout 2021 the various stakeholders of Hunter College Campus Schools continued with their advocacy for increased diversity in the school. The restrictions of COVID-19 brought a unique opportunity for a review and overhaul of the admissions criteria, including the entrance exam, for admittance of its September 2021 entering class. Ultimately, Hunter College, which governs the Campus Schools, decided that an exam would still be given for the 2021 7th grade admission and held it in June.
This was not what many advocates of admissions reform wanted to hear. Much effort was made to present Hunter’s administration and the Hunter community with a rationale for developing alternative criteria for accepting students into the school to increase the diversity of the student body. However, the ongoing advocacy for change in the admissions procedures may not have been entirely in vain. Adjustments to the exam were made and, testing sites were expanded into the Bronx and Brooklyn. These tweaks in the process appear to have contributed to the increase of Black and Latinx students taking and passing the exam and an increase in the numbers of Black and Latinx students entering HCHS in 2021. We hope to obtain a full report from the high school with specifics in numbers shortly.
Of course, this was good news, but it does not mean mission accomplished. It shows that slight adjustments within the testing process can have a positive impact on increasing the diversity of the students admitted. There is room for further adjustments to be made. As of the date of this writing, plans for the 2022 exam have not yet been announced.
The HCHSAA Diversity committee has been continuing its work with issues related to diversity within the high school, exploring all avenues of interventions. After a year of research and analysis of surveys to present and former HCHS students and their parents, the Retention sub-committee finalized its report. Recommendations included the development of educational responses to instances of racism, professional development, and faculty support in the area of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion. Also recommended was the hiring of more Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) faculty, including the addition of a guidance counselor or therapist with expertise in BIPOC mental health and support and mentoring for students.
In 2021, the HCHSAA student summer internship program took place for its second year in a row with great success. Under the direction of the Chairs of the Recruitment and Retention sub-committees and members of those and other Diversity Committee sub-committees, ten high school interns worked on expanding its mission to be more inclusive of student populations and developing various projects.
The projects included but were not limited to working on technical support to the Diversity Committee, creating a specific program of community outreach to schools to promote HCHS as an educational choice and to enrich and enhance students’ early academic experiences, and developing an alumnae/i survey.
The students were offered a stipend for their summer service. Many of them are continuing their work as interns during the academic year. They have officially become members of the Diversity Committee and are engaged in regular meetings. The students look forward to publishing a full report of their projects in the future.
As mentioned earlier, the Diversity Committee has increased its outreach to alums over the past two years. Part of this outreach was in the form of a recent survey developed by the student interns and sent out to alums to solicit interest and gather information in the development of a student mentoring program.
There were over one hundred responses from alums from a wide range of graduating classes. They provided information about themselves which included their interest in serving as a mentor for students with professional, social/emotional, and extracurricular areas of expertise and interest. The student interns are grateful to all of you who responded and, they are now developing a pilot program for the mentoring project. We will keep you updated as the program develops.
The Diversity Committee is looking forward to extending invitations to alums and others in the Hunter community to join virtual programs in the works. Please look out for announcements. We are also grateful to all who have made donations to the HCHSAA with specific earmarks for diversity.
These funds are used for projects such as the student internship program and will also finance future recruitment and community outreach programs and programs within the high school. The committee has been fortunate to have so many alums volunteer their time and talents in working with the student interns or on specific projects related to increasing diversity in the high school. We need your participation in these endeavors especially, as we develop our mentoring program for the HCHS students. If you are interested in joining the Diversity Committee and have a specific skill you would like to offer or project you would like to work with, please let us know by emailing email@example.com.
Judith Daniel ’79
Member, HCHSAA Board of Directors
Diversity Committee Chair