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Denver School Board Member to Moderate All-Student Town Hall on Race and Social Justice

  • Following the rise of protests that occurred in cities across the nation this summer after the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, a panel of urban students will discuss issues of race and equity at a live, national town hall meeting on Oct. 16.

    The forum is being held in conjunction with the Council of the Great City Schools’ virtual 64th Annual Fall Conference Oct. 13-17. The 75-minute town hall meeting will feature student leaders from 10 urban school districts and will be moderated by Tay Anderson, a school board member with Denver Public Schools. A 2017 graduate of the Denver school system, Anderson is a social justice activist who has participated in numerous public demonstrations as well as conversations and meetings with school district leaders, state leaders, and members of Congress on social justice issues. Before joining the school board, Anderson worked as a restorative practice coordinator at the district’s North High School, helping students resolve conflicts.

    Students who will participate on the panel are:

    Alexa Butler, a senior at Sunnyside High School in Fresno, Calif., who serves as a student member of the Fresno Ethnic Studies Coalition, vice president of the Black Student Union, a member of the Race and Social Justice student advisory council and a member of the Fresno Unified School District Superintendent’s student advisory board.

    Jemma Currie, a junior at Forest Hill Community High School in Florida’s School District of Palm Beach County, was born in South Africa.  Living in both countries has given her firsthand experience in racial differences and inequities. She is a member of the student council, where she is extremely engaged in equity issues, and is in the Environmental Science program. She has worked since middle school on an environmental project called Surface 71, focused on reducing plastics to save the oceans.

    Keylisha Diaz, a junior at the Philadelphia Military Academy, is a student board representative for the School District of Philadelphia, who wants to be a voice for all students across the district to improve their educational experience. She is president of her school’s Student Government, vice president of the Gay Straight Alliance, an Army JROTC staff sergeant, with six Army JROTC ribbons, and a National Honor Society member.

    Khymani James is a senior at Boston Latin Academy and a member of the Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC), where he serves on the School Climate and Improvement Subcommittee and is a strong advocate for effective teaching and educational equity. As a BSAC member, he has given multiple testimonies to the Boston School Committee and City Council on issues such as immigration, over policing, and education while also participating in working groups to formulate better policy around these issues.

    Tyra Patterson, a senior at Jim Hill High School in Jackson, Miss., is a JROTC Cadet Lieutenant Colonel and member of her school’s National Honor Society and International Baccalaureate Program. She is also a member of the Mississippi Student Advisory Council, where she serves as a liaison between the Mississippi Department of Education and public school students from across the state. 

    Gabriel Schuhl is a junior at Ardrey Kell High School in Charlotte, N.C., who was elected as the student advisor to the board of education in November 2019, where he emphasizes the need for equity across all district schools. He is active in extracurricular activities, including the Charlotte Mecklenburg Youth Council, student government, the speech and debate team, and the band.

    Simone’ Denise Simmons, a junior at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati, is a member of the Ohio Attorney General’s Teen Ambassador Board for the 2020-21 school year. An accomplished basketball player, she also is a member of Cincinnati Public Schools’ “Speak Up and Speak Out” program, which hosts weekly forums for students. She is also working with the district’s board of education on their anti-racism policy.

    Glenn Perez Rodriguez, a junior at Lakewood High School in California’s Long Beach Unified School District, has been a youth leader with Californians for Justice since 2018, where he has worked to challenge racial injustice and disparities in schools. He is the current president of the Lakewood Ambassador’s Club and a leading cadet at his school’s NJROTC program.

    Carmella Thomas, a senior at Grant High School in Portland, Ore., leads conversations about racial justice with her high school peers, working with educators to plan bi-annual “teach-ins” on racial identity development. Last year, she was active in helping shape a new vision for Portland’s schools, and this year, has the honor to represent her school on the 2020 Rose Festival Court--a 100 year Portland tradition recognizing young women for their leadership, voice and vision for a better Portland. 

    Paw Thlay Wah is a senior at Benson High School in Nebraska’s Omaha Public Schools and is a representative for the district’s student panel. She was born in a Thailand refugee camp to parents who are originally from Myanmar (Burma). An active member of the city’s local Karen community, she has logged more than a thousand hours of volunteer time and wants to become one of the first Karen students to attend Harvard University.

    The Council’s town hall meeting will be held on Oct. 16 at 3 p.m., Eastern Standard Time.