I didn’t expect to end up in AmeriCorps. It was actually the last thing I expected. When I finished my master’s degree in children’s literature at the University of Cambridge in the middle of 2020, I anticipated entering the children’s book publishing field, as had been my plan. As we all know too well, 2020 as a year had no respect for anyone’s plans, so I expanded my job search to include anything in the education, library, nonprofit, and book worlds. When I saw a VISTA position at the YWCA Minneapolis pop up, I was intrigued. Empowering women and eliminating racism (the missions of the YWCA) are causes that have always driven my actions and aspirations. After my dissertation on innocence and maturity in African American children’s literature, anything in the realm of racial justice, education, and children’s books is right up my alley. I threw in an application to accompany the approximately 400 other applications I’d submitted since last March and here I am. I remember leaving the interview feeling energized by the Children’s Center’s anti-bias curriculum focus and dedication to confronting injustice from an early age.
My work for the YWCA Early Childhood Education Department revolves around further developing the anti-bias curriculum, supporting teachers and staff, partnering with outside organizations to expand the reach of the YWCA, and curating anti-bias and anti-racist materials and resources. I was involved in the editing and publication of the Anti-Bias Curriculum for the Preschool Classroom and I am currently designing lesson plans to teach children about classism, racism, sexism, ableism, and xenophobia. I think this is the most important work anyone can do. Not only will the children in the classroom inherit the world we are making for them, they are co-creating it in this very moment. If we want to see a more just, equitable, and kind world, we have to talk about that vision with the youngest members of our communities. I am absolutely honored to be playing a role in that mission.
I’ve heard that the programs, documents, trainings, and materials I have put in place will benefit the Children’s Centers for years to come. The new staff manual with its anti-bias section, the guide to Black History Month instruction, the anti-racist teaching guidelines, and the series of teacher training tools I have implemented exhibit the utmost respect and value of the students, their families, and the incredible teachers and staff of the ECE. The people around me (virtually, that is) are so validating, so gracious, and so passionate about the changes they want to see in the world. If my year at the YWCA Minneapolis does anything, I hope children are leaving it not only prepared for kindergarten, but prepared to address everyone they meet with an open mind, and every institution with a critical one.