This Moment in Time – a message from Angela Jones, J.D., Washington STEM CEO
Like you, I am bearing witness to the events that have unfolded across our nation in response to the tragic murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others, and I am grieving. I have wanted to share some thoughts, but it has taken a little time for me to identify what exactly I wanted to say to you, our community of Washington STEM supporters.
I will be honest and say that in this moment, sitting down to draft a statement was not at the top of my list. I have been on an emotional roller coaster and still find myself in tears as I write this as the CEO of Washington STEM, a member of the Black community, and as a mother of two amazing Black sons. Sons that I have had to teach, at a very young age, how to be safe in their own country because of the color of their skin. It is a painful all-too-early, heartbreaking coming of age process that all parents of Black sons face.
Still, I could not remain silent. This is a critical moment in time and it will take all of us working together if we want to see real change. Here’s where I’ve landed.
We at Washington STEM have been undergoing an evolution over the last many years. We spent our early years supporting existing community nonprofits doing important work in STEM while we worked to identify what our unique contribution might be and how we could leverage that contribution in service of our great state. Like many organizations, Washington STEM has grappled with what it means to serve, what it means to center communities who are furthest from opportunity, and what it means to center equity in our work. We’ve had conversations with staff about systemic racism, we’ve tried to be thoughtful and intentional about how we do our work, and we’ve engaged in trainings that help increase our shared understanding and language around how we each contribute to upholding racist systems and practices.
But we have more work to do.
Washington STEM is an organization whose work is to engage at the systems level. We partner with community to identify and spread solutions that fill gaps in our educational system so that not only White or affluent students can access the skills, resources, and opportunities to education beyond high school and family-sustaining wage jobs here in our state, but also Black, Brown, and Indigenous Peoples, as well as rural and low-income students, and girls. These students are those that data show are disproportionately underrepresented in STEM education and careers, careers that hold much promise not just in our state but across the nation and in our future economy.
Systems changes do not deliver quick fixes. They are powerful though because they last, with benefits accumulating and compounding over time. They are just as vital as meeting our community’s critical needs around housing, food stability, and safety. Systems underpin all of our civil society’s functions and education is one of those systems. Those who are courageously and peacefully protesting in communities across the nation are reminding all of us, once again, that because of systemic racism, the systems in our country do not currently serve all our people equally—and they absolutely need to.
I am honored to lead this organization as I know just how important it is for young Black students to be able to access education beyond high school. It has been a defining feature of my life. It disrupted the cycle of poverty in my own family and enabled me to chart a course that eventually helped me obtain the position of CEO, one that very few Black women hold. In my view, education remains the most effective way to ensure one can participate in an innovative and thriving economy, access family-sustaining wage jobs, and share in the prosperity of our great state.
We have more work to do at Washington STEM and I commit to leading us through this work.
We will review and refine how we do our work so that we can become better equipped to identify how our privilege and biases show up in our work.
We will develop a shared equity framework for our organization so that we can ensure that, as we move through our day to day, we continue to center communities furthest from opportunity.
We will continue to engage as a staff in conversations around race, equity, and justice.
We commit to being better listeners.
We will not always get it right. But we will do the work.
Yours in service,
Angela Jones, J.D.
CEO, Washington STEM