On Thursday, C.K. McClathchy High School and UC Berkeley alumni Pachia Vang returned home to share her story about impact ethnic studies had on her life. Here is her touching testimony that she shared with the SCUSD Board of Education.
Dear Superintendent and Members of the Sacramento City Unified School District,
I wanted to talk to you about adopting ethnic studies as a high school graduation requirement. In high school, I was a part of the HISP program at C.K. McClathchy High School. HISP stands for the Humanities and International Studies Program – which means that everything we learned, we learned from an international and human-centric perspective.
I know HISP isn’t exactly the same thing as Ethnic Studies but being able to learn about history from a non-Western perspective as a woman of color at a young age was empowering because I was able to identify with something in the classroom for the first time. I consider myself lucky to have been able to be a part of HISP because it has given me the courage to look for and grasp onto opportunities in life that I never thought was possible. Last year, I graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and since have been able to work alongside amazing individuals within local government, agencies, different non-profits, and community organizations really giving back to where I come from.
Out of my entire family, I am the only person who has had the opportunity to be a part of HISP. I should feel grateful about what I've accomplished thus far but I feel sad because my brothers and sisters have not had the same opportunity. That’s something that I struggle with everyday trying to get them to believe in themselves and recognize their potential – because we come from communities where children aren’t encouraged to do more. People aren’t encouraged to do more. Why?
These things aren’t easy to change but I think it’s the responsibility of schools to provide an environment for our kids to understand why. To understand where they come from so that they can understand who they are, what they can do for themselves and what they can do in this world. Introducing ethnic studies as a high school requirement is one of the first steps we can take in this direction so I hope that you really do consider this not just as a resolution but as a plan to be implemented.