Close Close

Projects in Action Posters: 2022-2023

Table of Contents

The Falcons Nest (AY 22-23)

Markese Beverly, Foods Instructor
Monmouth Regional High School

Goals and Objectives

According to the New Jersey Health Department, about 800,000 people, including 192,000 children, lack affordable healthy food options.

Gardening provides educators with opportunities to enhance student education through practical, reality-based learning. Goals of school garden programs often include Providing opportunities for hands-on learning, inquiry, observation and experimentation across the curriculum. With the addition of this school community garden, we will be able to utilize the fruits, vegetables and herbs grown, in our daily production labs.

Benefits of our School/Communal Garden

  • Beautifying the Landscape
  • Making Fresh Produce Accessible
  • Promoting Healthier Lifestyles
  • Cleaning up the Environment
  • Building Stronger Communities
  • Opportunities for Learning
  • Relieving Stress and Increasing Wellness

Project Description

My project is to build a sustainable garden which will assist students in creating healthier lifestyle choices, battle food insecurity, show a different perspective in gardening (farm to table) and to create nutritious meals while saving money.

By growing their own food, home gardeners saved on average $92 per month

Hunger and Food Insecurity

Those words seem the same. But it may surprise you to learn that hunger and food insecurity mean different things. Hunger is the feeling someone has when they don’t have food. Food insecurity is the consistent lack of food to have a healthy life because of your economic situation.

Causes of food insecurity

  • Poverty, unemployment, or low income
  • Lack of affordable housing
  • Chronic health conditions or lack of access to healthcare
  • Systemic racism and racial discrimination

Effects of food insecurity

  • Food insecurity can cause serious health issues when people must choose between spending money on food and medicine or healthcare Food insecurity can make it more difficult for a child to learn and grow
  • Food insecurity can lead to difficult decisions like choosing between food and rent, bills, and transportation

My targeted population and demographic are students’ grades (9-12) within our regional community. Starting at this grade level or before allows for a stronger foundation later in life, knowing the “How too” and “Why” we create sustainable gardens. It’s not just to grow food, but also to grow knowledge.


A study found that less than 10% of adults living in a food-secure household experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. Yet, this percentage skyrocketed to 40% for individuals who experienced severe food insecurity. Food insecure individuals are also more vulnerable to developing a wide range of chronic conditions: they are 3% more likely to get diabetes, 2% more likely to get heart disease, and 1.5 % more likely to develop hypertension. This inevitably leads to a greater need for prescription drugs, surgeries, and primary healthcare, which amounts to an annual healthcare cost of $3930 for food insecure adults, compared to the cost of $1608 for those who are food secure. There are so many health complications due to food insecurities that if we can assist and lower the percentages by promoting one garden at a time, we can shift the outcomes in our food insecure world.


The impact of this project could possibly last for an eternity when students understand how and why it is essential in creating a garden to sustain a healthy, affordable lifestyle. This will result in a generational transformation in healthier, cleaner living.

Equity Day (AY 22-23)

Gina Parker Collins, Samantha Hageman
Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School


The purpose of this day was to encourage students to be brave and generous with sharing their information in small groups in preparation for a whole grade discussion as well as a middle school wide share-out.


  • Acknowledge different identities that contribute to a school culture
  • Promote a positive school culture
  • Celebrate students’ for being brave and generous
  • Cultivate a space in which students feel safe

Project Description

The SJA project evolved many times to take into account where the school is prior to the implementation of this project. The goal was to implement a program to explore how days dedicated to diversity can contribute to creating actionable steps for the school to attempt in the future.

Equity Day was a time and space in which middle school students, grades 5-7, were provided with the opportunity to

explore their identities within and beyond the 8 identifiers of age, ability, ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and religion.

Students were given the chance to reflect and share their experiences with members of their community through icebreakers, workshops, and discussion questions created by an organization called Resources In Independent School Education (RIISE), founded by Gina Parker Collins.


  • Students were provided the space to be brave and generous with sharing information
  • Students discussed how other people may perceive them and compared this to how they identify based on their ‘invisible’ identities
  • Students were able to share their identifiers that they are proud of as well as those that they struggled with
  • Faculty and staff built rapport by participating in the the discussions


Students were able to identify visible identifiers, however, invisible identifiers were a topic that caused some discomfort. The idea of celebrating bravery and generosity inspired students to engage with the open audience participation that ended the day. After Equity Day, more steps can be taken to promote a positive school climate in which all students feel safe and thrive.

Project: Book Reviews (AY 22-23)

Amy Corbet-Elsbree, MAT
Neptune Middle School/Neptune Township School District

Goals & Objectives

  •  Introduce a variety of books to the Diversity Team of Neptune Middle School
  • Members will read each book, while taking notes.
  • Discussion of each book took place at our monthly meetings.
  • Members discussed if the book would be beneficial to the rest of the faculty and staff at Neptune Middle School
  • All books were made available to the faculty and staff at Neptune Middle School.

Books Examined

  • Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain
  • How to be an Anti-Racist – Ibram X. Kendi
  • Becoming a White Antiracist: A Practical Guide for Educators, Leaders, and Activists – Stephen D. Brookfield and Mary E. Hess
  • The Impact of Identity: The Power of Knowing Who You Are – Irina Nevzlin
  • Is Everyone Really Equal?: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education (Multicultural Education Series) 2nd Edition – Özlem Sensoy
  • Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom – Lisa Delpit

Project Description

Target Population

The faculty and staff of Neptune Middle School (88 members) which serves approximately 700 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students from lower socioeconomic and diverse backgrounds.

Content of Project

Faculty and staff members of the Neptune Middle School Diversity Team explored 6 books covering the topics of racism, diversity, equity, and culture. The Diversity Team met monthly for the 2022-2023 school year. At each of the meetings, 15-20 minutes were spent discussing the topics of the books. Each member of the team was asked to spend time in thought and answering the following questions:

  • What part(s) stood out to you?
  • What part(s) made you think?
  • How can you apply what you read to your classroom?
  • Did you enjoy the book? Why or why not?
  • Would you recommend it to a colleague to read about why our own identities as well as our students’ identities are important?
  • What was your favorite quote from the book?


These questions we discussed as we read the books helped us to have difficult but meaningful conversations about the diverse population we serve. It also led to the difficult realization that the population we serve is changing, and we must learn to change with it.


Multiple copies of the 6 books we read and reviewed were added to our Equity and Diversity Library, which are available to all faculty and staff to borrow.

Moving forward into the next school year, one book a month will be highlighted in our faculty meetings.

Installing Windows in a Hall of Mirrors (AY 22-23)

Eileen Fitzpatrick
Viola L. Sickles School/Fair Haven

Goals & Objectives


  • Give the members of the school community opportunities – throughout the school year, in all content areas – to experience a more multicultural world through books with stories of characters, real and imagined, with diverse identities.
  • Educators will be made aware of the importance of using multicultural texts with our young students in our everyday lessons, not just around holidays.
  • Teachers will make sure to include diverse books in their instruction and read aloud choices.
  • Reading diverse books will help all members of the community build empathy for, and make connections with, people who are outside of their “bubble,” that will encourage self-awareness and reflection of privilege and its connection to racial inequalities.


  • To increase the quantity and quality of books with BIPOC, queer, neurodivergent, and disabled characters/subjects in the primary school library.
  • To have diverse books added to the suggested “mentor texts” in the curricular guides.
  • Increase student opportunity for exposure to other races and cultures through books and digital resources.
  • Give book talks for a few books at each faculty meeting to highlight their curricular connections and quality of story /content, not just the diversity.

Project Description

Target Population

74 Faculty and staff members; 423 students in grades K-3

Needs of Target Population

  • The staff and student population is largely white. Just as it’s important for books to be mirrors for those of marginalized communities, they must also be windows and sliding glass doors for students who grow up in homogeneous communities. While the community a child lives in may be a “bubble,” our world is not. If we want our young people to be equipped for success in our multicultural world, and have the tools to build a better future, it is vital that we give them the opportunity to see diversity. Books are sometimes the only place where young readers may meet people who are not like themselves or those around them. (Tschida, Ryan, & Ticknor, 2014)
  • Commonly, teachers will only read books with diverse perspectives around a holiday or season. For example, reading books with black characters in February during Black History Month, or books about Native peoples and culture around Thanksgiving. Too often, the same stories are read by multiple teachers, twice limiting students’ exposure to diverse stories. This project aims to give the members of the school community opportunities – throughout the school year, in all content areas – to experience a more multicultural world through the stories of characters, real and imagined, with diverse identities.

Content of Program

  • A diversity analysis of the existing a library collection was performed through the circulation system, Follett Destiny, in the fall. The report showed 3,759 books with an average age of 1998 in the “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” category
  • A diversity analysis of the existing a library collection was performed through the circulation system, Follett Destiny, in the fall. The report showed 3,759 books with an average age of 1998 in the “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” category
  • The collection was weeded of books with content that was inappropriate, inaccurate, and / or perpetuated stereotypes of diverse people, cultures and ideas.
  • Sources such as We Need Diverse Books, Follett Titlewave, and The American Library Association were used to select books to order.
  • An order for 41 new diverse books was placed in November.
  • Content tags were created for each book to highlight curricular connections.
  • Books were displayed and talked about at a faculty meeting.
  • New books were prominently displayed in library media center. Teachers and students were encouraged to borrow these books.
  • Diverse books were used frequently as read alouds during library media classes.
  • A survey was sent to teaching staff to gauge comfort level and frequency of providing students opportunities to learn about people from different races, cultures or identities. The survey also asked for suggestions for books, resources, and professional development to build empathy, equity and diversity in our school community.
  • A second order of books was placed with the remaining grant funds.

Cost of project: $1200 for books and catalog processing.


The expression “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” comes to mind upon reflection of the outcomes.

Goals and objectives met

  • 62 diverse books were added to the library collection
  • The importance and value of reading diverse books throughout the school year was presented at a faculty meeting
  • Diverse books were read aloud during library media classes

Goals and objectives partially met

  • 40% of new diverse books were checked out by students and or faculty

Goals and objectives unmet

  • Adding diverse titles to curriculum as suggested mentor texts
  • Book talk 2-4 new diverse books at each faculty meeting


Based on both the positive feedback I received from some staff, the low circulation of new diverse books, and some positive and negative reactions by students to books with diverse characters read aloud, it is worthwhile to continue to pursue this goal.

As this was my first year in this district, and the current news of school leaders and Board of Education members banning books in school libraries, I was apprehensive about broaching the subject. Moving forward, I think I will find more avenues and allies to support this goal and continue “installing windows” so that students, (and adults in the school community), can continue to make connections to other races, cultures, and viewpoints through books.

Encouraging Conversations, Encouraging One Another (AY 22-23)

Melissa S. Csengeto
West Milford High School, West Milford Township Public Schools

Goals & Objectives

  • Help students articulate their own identities and their own questions about race, racism, and antiracism
  • Introduce and discuss vocabulary from pages 11-15 in Monmouth SJA handbook (race, prejudice, cisgender, cultural appropriation, white centering, white privilege, white superiority, etc.), and types of racism (microaggressions, covert racism, etc.). Encourage and help students be more comfortable with common language and appropriate vocabulary.
  • Encourage student reflection on lessons and topics through short personal responses shared with staff via Google Form
  • Encourage and enable students to become ambassadors to others to discuss topics of racism and anti-racism
  • Use ‘This Book is Anti-Racist’ to guide activities and discussions
  • Provide staff with further reading resources for conversation and reference. Staff will be encouraged to borrow the books from the ‘mini library’

Student Pretest Responses

I feel that race and or racism affect my life or the lives of people that I care about
2 (25%)2 (25%)2 (25%)1 (12.5%)1 (12.5%)
8 Responses
I feel ___ about discussing race and racism
3 (37.5%)1 (12.5%)4 (50%)0 (0%)0 (0%)
8 Responses

Project Description

Target Population

There were two target populations for this project. One was a select group of students, to whom classroom lessons would be delivered. The other is the faculty and staff of the high school.

The original target population for the classroom lessons was an English class section, including junior and senior students. That course section is titled “Diverse Perspectives in Literature” and focuses on developing empathy and highlighting shared humanity through the voices and experiences of diverse authors and characters including: economic diversity, belonging in connection with race and ethnicity, disabilities, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and religion.

Due to administrative concerns, the target population had to be adjusted. Ultimately, the classroom lessons were delivered to a section of a history elective course, titled “The Struggle for Acceptance: Learning from the Past, Empowering the Future“ and informally known as “Social Injustice”. This was a spring semester course; four classroom lessons ultimately occurred in February, March, April, and May.

Student Pretest Responses

Below, I am indicating my familiarity with the following terms
TermNot at All FamiliarSomewhat FamiliarVery Familiar
Institutional Racism170
White Privilege017
8 Responses

Needs of Target Population

In the pre-test administered, students expressed that they felt there was not enough discussion about race and/or racism in our society.

Content of Program

The project consisted of two separate components: classroom lessons delivered to a select group of high school students, and the creation of a library of books that can serve as a resource to high school staff.

Classroom lessons were geared toward topics and vocabulary presented in the Social Justice Academy, and, when possible, aligned with the content being taught in the class at the time. Topics included program vocabulary, incarceration, power, and more. Discussion and group activities followed. Students were asked to complete short reflections following each lesson.

Through the generosity of the Grunin Foundation and the Social Justice Academy, we were able to purchase twenty-eight (increase from original proposal of fifteen) titles relating to racism, antiracism, and racism and antiracism in educational practice. These books will be housed in the Guidance/School Counseling office and will be accessible to any staff member.


Students engaged in class discussions and activities meant to increase vocabulary and comfort with that vocabulary, and to spur thinking on various issues. They were better able to articulate points of concern as well as their own feelings about identity and antiracism issues.

Student Post-Test responses

I feel ___ about discussing race and racism
2 (40%)2 (40%)1 (20%)0 (0%)0 (0%)
5 Responses
I feel there is ___ discussion about race and/or racism in our society
not nearly enoughnot quite enoughenoughtoo much
5 Responses
I feel ___ about issues and topics on race and racism
not at all knowledgeablesomewhat knowledgeablevery knowledgeable
5 Responses


After participating in the semester course and SJA project lessons, my hope is that the students will feel more empowered to have conversations with peers and others, and to speak up with useful information. Using the books purchased with the SJA/Grunin grant money, staff can learn more about antiracism and relevant issues to better serve our students.

Building Family and School Connections

Jessica DeLisa, Ed.D.
Long Branch Public Schools

Goals & Objectives

Long Term Goals

  • Develop a sense of school community by creating and fostering opportunities for students and parents to engage with the school in meaningful and positive ways beyond the classroom.
  • Provide a space for parents to learn about the school and contribute to the learning that takes place.
  • Develop a repeatable year-long plan to engage parents, building from the first event. The purpose behind the goals is to support parents as a way to support student achievement and student outcomes. In an interview study, 5 out of 6 Long Branch students reported their parents were the most influential people when it comes to deciding to participate in school activities. However, students also reported a lack of conversation with parents about participation. Parents have previously reported not knowing about school activities and events. Student participation in after-school activities has been strongly linked to student achievement and adult outcomes (DeLisa, 2023). The goals of parent engagement are aligned with goals to support students and promote student engagement.

DeLisa, J. (2023). An Exploration of Student Decision Making Process Towards After- School Activities at a New Jersey Middle School. Unpublished manuscript.

Short Term Goals

  • Teach/show parents what it is like to attend Long Branch Middle School.
  • Make connections to support policy and procedures in this area.
  • Teach the impact of parent and
    student involvement to all stakeholders.


  • Advocate for parent and student involvement opportunities.
  • Create a parent/family webpage to:
    • Provide family specific information
    • Provide a learning center (example a video on how to register for sports).
  • Use social media to connect parents to student activities, events, and school happenings. DeLisa, J. (2023). An Exploration of Student Decision Making Process Towards After- School Activities at a New Jersey Middle School. Unpublished manuscript.

DeLisa, J. (2023). An Exploration of Student Decision Making Process Towards After- School Activities at a New Jersey Middle School. Unpublished manuscript.

Project Description


This project focused on creating opportunities for parents and family members to feel connected to the school community. This work including providing a view into student life activities through social media posts. In addition, a webpage was created to be a steady place to provide useful information specific to the needs of parents of children at the school. This includes videos about how to sign up for parent portal, which social media accounts to follow, and how to learn about school activities.

This project set several long-term and short-term goals. Advocacy work and future planning focused on ensuring that parent involvement became a priority and is improved each year. One way this was done was by writing parent and student engagement goals into the Title I annual school plan. Additionally, planning has taken place to expand the parent videos to include videos that have opportunities for family engagement as an innovative way to connect with parents who may not be able to attend events at the school.

Target Population

The target population of this project is the parents of the students at Long Branch Middle School. The demographic makeup of students at this school includes about 59 percent Hispanic, 22 percent White, and 15 percent Black/African American and 4 percent two or more races, Asian, and/or American Indian/Alaska Native. About 82 percent of students are economically disadvantaged. About 12 percent of students are English language learners (New Jersey Performance Report, n.d.).

The Why

There is a need for more opportunities for parents to engage with the school community. One reason is because parent events are limited throughout the year. In addition, within the school community, there are parents who are not familiar with school systems in the United States. These parent could use additional supports for navigating how to support their children in public schools in the United States. Parents also expressed during a focus group that they needed more information about school events and activities at the school, so they can help sign their children up.

Content of Program

This project took specific steps to create continuous improvements in the area of parent engagement and parent involvement. The work involved advocacy, increasing communication, and creating lasting goals and planning. The advocacy work led to the creation of a new position within the athletic department to help communicate how students can become involved in sports as well as what it looks like to be an athlete at the middle school. That position is a major step to ensure this work is valued and continued.

One major focus of this year was increasing communication. Social media was used to connect with families. Twitter and Instagram was used to communicate school events, to highlight student life, and to celebrate student accomplishments. A parent webpage was created to provide all of the relevant information parents need to stay informed and connected to the school happenings (on their own time and terms). The webpage is a place where new information can be updated regularly and can support many of the communication goals.


The outcomes vary based on the objectives:

  • Advocate for parent and student involvement
    • Parent support was provided at the 6th grade orientation to help parents sign up for a Genesis account.
    • Parent and student engagement has been set as a goal for 2023-2024 in the annual school plan.
    • There has been a shift in the opinions about parent engagement events and there appears to be a drive to ensure there are more opportunities to engage more parents next year.
  • Create a parent/family webpage.
    • The family connection webpage was created. It includes quick direct links to important information without scrolling or searching. It also includes a few video tutorials with the intention to grow the number of informational videos.
  • Use social media to connect parents to student activities, events, and school happenings.
    • A new stipend position was created for the presenter through the athletic department to support this work.
      • Athletic sign-up information was shared to parents and students.
      • The player of the week program was initiated to celebrate the students. These posts are most popular for views, likes, share, and comments.
      • Instagram is reaching more people
        • Hit the milestone of over 2,000 views for 2 videos
        • April 2022, the account had 70follows, October 2023 it grew to 165, May 2023 it is up to 399.
  • There is an increase in sports participation from last year:
    • Fall sports up by 16%
    • Winter sports up by 34% (most information provided and shared most timely).
    • Spring sport up by 13%


This project can be continued by continuing the work initiated and by adding new features to the work. It took much of the year to establish a small following on social media. It is important to continue posting regular updates to organically grow within the target audience. It is also important that parents be made aware of the social media accounts at in person events or during other interactions.

This year was also spent creating a webpage and getting the appropriate approvals to make the page go live and connect it to the middle school website. The following year should be used to promote the page and increase the content available to parents.

The push for parent involvement and student engagement needs ongoing advocacy. It is challenging to engage parents at the middle school, so this work requires dedication and creative ideas.

The Silence Isn’t Quiet (AY 22-23)

Teresa M Downey
Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District

Goals & Objectives

The goals of the project expand on the goals written by the established Student Equity Team.

  1. Ensure educational equity language within the Matawan-Aberdeen Middle School by developing a vocabulary list in collaboration with students to identify acceptable terms to discuss race, gender, and bias and replace offensive and outdated terms with vocabulary that is sensitive to marginalized groups;
  2. Encourage kindness, respect and appreciation for diverse cultures and communities by curating monthly activities to engage students in discussions on racism/sexism and encourage appreciation of others’ cultures while unpacking feelings and realizations that were uncovered by engagement;
  3. Provide student and alumni perspective on diversity and inclusion through an invited guest panel about diversity, bias and “othering” in Matawan Aberdeen Middle School, followed by pointed questions about bias directed to alumni participants

Project Description

Matawan Aberdeen Middle School has a population of about 860 students across three grades: sixth, seventh and eighth. The students are fairly split between genders (51% male; 49% female; <1% non-binary). While only 7% are classified as Spanish-speaking, one-fifth of the students are designated among our largest minority population of Hispanic origin (21.8%). While Native populations measure <0.3%, minority populations in the Black (9.8%) and Asian (6.1%) communities are decreasing. This project attempts to address all of the student population since the community counts more than 40% as non-white. This particular project is needed because the 57.3% white-majority community tends to dictate the language and culture of the school.

My project was essentially divided into two portions:

  1. student engagement in the middle school to ensure respect and appreciation for all cultures while using equitable language;
  2. collaboration between current students and school alumni to confront implicit bias at Matawan Aberdeen Middle School.

The intent of the project was to leverage the cooperation of the school’s multiple student clubs, specifically the Multicultural Club, the African American Student Union and the Student Equity Team, to work through our newly- established Advisory period to develop norms for class discussions. These norms would also be valuable in games and activities led by peer leaders to reveal students’ implicit bias in terms of racial equity, gender bias and religious tolerance. The equity language was critical in formulating activities and assessing changes in attitudes towards one another. Unfortunately this portion of the project required multiple levels of buy-in from the teachers and staff and resulted in many discussions about the teachers’ discomfort in discussing sensitive topics with younger adolescents.

The alumni portion of the project was not without its faults but it was probably the most successful portion of the assignment. At the core of this part of the project was the collaboration between current students and alumni. I invited former students to return to the school and to partake in a student presentation on MicroAggressions. The Student Equity Team put together a 30-minute slideshow and video presentation on what MicroAggressions essentially are and how those comments slandered the cultural diversity that the students took pride in. Following the presentation, we were joined by alumni who recollected their memories in middle school and reflected on how that made them feel. The students then invited participation from the audience members and shared their own experiences in facing bias and inequity. We concluded the evening with a discussion on how to move forward in the fight for justice.


Execution of the project was sorely impaired by outside factors that could have been mitigated but seemed to snowball. Cooperation from the Equity Team Leader was compromised when the advisor was promoted to Assistant Principal. For months the work of Social Justice was ignored until I volunteered and was appointed to be the new Co- Advisor to the Equity Team alongside Mr Tamer Shalaby. Rather than depend on other clubs to assist with morning activities, we focused on Student Equity Team activities that we could disseminate to the entire community. The students completed 5 bulletin boards with themes of ethnic diversity: Hispanic Heritage Month, New Year’s Celebrations, Women’s History, Neurodiversity and Asian American Pacific-Islander Month. The students also participated in Kean University’s “Find Your Voice” virtual student empowerment seminar, Matawan-Aberdeen’s Relay for Life and produced a podcast on gender equity.

The goals of the the project were once again derailed when I took a three-month medical leave for a joint replacement, but we returned in May to produce our MicroAggressions program with alumni before the concert season. Objectives were expected to be measured via student surveys and community feedback. Unfortunately feedback was not forthcoming. However, the impact on the participants in the Equity Team was immeasurable. They were gratified with the affirmation they received from the alumni and they were empowered by their ability to carry out an evening program from start to finish.


The students who participated in this year’s panel on MicroAggressions were excited to present to the community. They were energized by the willingness of the panel to return to their alma mater and speak on their experiences. They received encouragement from the alumni to keep pursuing pathways to equity, as this is not a short road but a worthwhile endeavor. While the impact is not yet felt across the whole school, the students who presented are positively moving forward and already planning events for the next school year. We have reserved evenings to continue documentary and discussion nights for the community.

Amplifying Voices (’22-’23)

Melissa Fairchild, Jennifer Havens, Lynn Retterer, and Cindy Sobieski
Trinity Hall | 101 Corregidor Road, Tinton Falls

2022-23 Goals & Objectives

The program was a success. This is based on attendance at events, student feedback in advisory groups and the use of our materials produced. Additionally, the project grew community networking between all stakeholders and between affinity groups.

  • Create cultural inclusivity with collateral materials translated into Spanish
  • Increase cultural competency among all stakeholders (students, faculty/staff, alumnae, parents, board members, etc.)

2023-24 Goals & Objectives

  • Maintain cultural inclusivity with collateral materials translated into Spanish and with Admissions events.
  • Increase cultural competency among all stakeholders (students, faculty/staff, alumnae, parents, board members, etc.)
  • Increase awareness and attendance of events created in the first year of Amplifying Voices.
  • Connect other school programing with the mission of Amplifying Voices, for example, Service Day.

Project Description

Amplifying Voices sought to create accessible and cultural competency throughout the Trinity Hall community. The catalyst for this project was rooted in the phrase “you can’t be what you can’t see.” In order to open lines of communication to all members of the community, our first priority was to provide translated materials for our non-English speaking families. We utilized funds to compensate our staff to translate marketing materials we used for our Open House events, including an entire packet of information translated into Spanish. At our Open House, we utilized our native speaking staff and students as delegates for questions, providing information about our school. They wore buttons to indicate that they were bilingual and the students carried signs with questions in Spanish.

The second phase was to broaden our perspectives in order to be able to define cultural competency, as an entire community, and hear community members’ narratives to create an understanding of “there isn’t anyone you can’t love once you hear their stories.” This was completed through professional development activities and community engagement events. We met with faculty/staff and board members to share what we learned from our summer professional development and our goals for the year. We worked with our affinity groups to share our support of 2022-2023 programming ideas to explore community narratives. As an example, in October we supported student clubs – Talk in Unity and Cultural club to celebrate the Hispanic culture at Trinity Hall by hanging flags and engaging in a community-wide presentation to educate students about our community’s diversity. Throughout the rest of the year, we aided Cultural club to coordinate speaker series events to help educate the community about diverse cultures. Some of these speakers included staff members, board members, and family members within the community who spoke and shared homemade food of their heritage.

Our first community event was our Spanish-speaking family night. We invited past, current, and prospective students and their families to enjoy a night of food and conversation. At this event, we shared our goal to create a stronger sense of community within families and open up the dialogue about utilizing each other as resources.

Our most profound event was a collaboration with the Director of Advancement by hosting a speaker for Trinity Hall’s Women in Leadership series. In the spring, we supported an alumna to return to Trinity Hall to share her experiences with the community about her family story, her growth through Trinity Hall, and how the next steps in her life through college and beyond helped to shape her success today.

Impact & Implications

Our affinity groups felt extremely supported and excited by our work. Most importantly it provided them with the support to create their own initiatives. Moving forward, student initiated events will strengthen what the first year of Amplifying Voices has accomplished by highlighting the purpose of learning empathy through others’ stories.

  • 10/2022: Talk in Unity hosted an educational presentation about Dia de Los Muertos and honored the day with a shrine/special cultural treat.
  • 9/2022-6/2023: Other clubs gained interested and hosted events, including bake sales, to support non-profit organizations that service underrepresented communities.
  • 2023-2024, Students communicated interest to host future events to celebrate cultural diversity and continue sharing their stories.

Expenses & Donations

2022-23 School Year

Speaker event$1,129.00
Club hosted events$459.91

Balance for 2023-24 School Year


It’s About Awareness- Yours and Mine (SY 22-23) (need images in tabular form)

Janice Gerisch
West Milford High School, West Milford Township Public Schools

Goals & Objectives

The goal was to promote education and awareness of school education staff and administration (approximately 299 people). The West Milford High School student population for 2022-2023 is 85.38% white, with the remaining 14.62% of students self- categorized as BIPOC. The education staff in the High School is 96% white. The underlying reason for raising awareness and education lies in the need to further develop understanding and a common and appropriate language to address race and racism. It is through their own education that staff become better educators for all students. Through staff development, the intention was to encourage staff to examine their knowledge, views, and understanding of racism and the impact it has on our collective student body. As the student population changes, the staff needs more tools to address issues of racism in classrooms and the school as a whole, and to understand how to do this in an appropriate and effective manner. Further, the intention was to highlight the importance of this work and to provide thought-provoking material to awaken staff to the needs of students of color and to cultivate awareness between and amongst students and staff themselves.

Project Description

In the inaugural year of West Milford High School’s participation in a Social Justice project, the focus will be primarily on education and awareness of school education staff and administration (approximately 299 people). The West Milford High School student population for 2022-2023 is 85.38% white, with the remaining 14.62% of students self-categorized as BIPOC. The education staff in the High School is 96% white. The underlying reason for raising awareness and education lies in the need to further develop understanding and a common and appropriate language to address race and racism. It is through their own education that staff become better educators for all students. Through staff development, I intend to encourage staff to examine their knowledge, views, and understanding of racism and the impact it has on our collective student body. As the student population changes, the staff needs more tools to address issues of racism in classrooms and the school as a whole, and to understand how to do this in an appropriate and effective manner. Further, I intend to highlight the importance of this work and to provide thought-provoking material to awaken staff to the needs of students of color and to cultivate awareness between and amongst students and staff themselves.

We conducted a district wide professional development session on January 17, 2023. As part of this session a survey was sent to staff to gauge their comfort with and knowledge of race and racism. A post session survey was sent out after the survey to gauge change. We hired Ashley Lipscomb from the Institute for Anti Racist Education to speak about the importance of this work and to encourage staff to develop a stronger and deeper understanding of race and racism. The purpose of the speaker was to spark motivation for this work and to highlight the many ways that a deeper awareness can benefit staff but also can affect our students in a very profound and long-lasting way.

A follow up professional development session was held in February during our professional day on February 20, 2023. Staff were given options to chose from and ten staff members chose this session which provided a deeper look at terms and their effect on our student population. The session was well received by all who attended.


The desired outcome was to engender a greater comfort and familiarity with race and racism terminology as well as their feelings on the school climate regarding racism. Outcomes were measured by a pre and post survey after initial training as well as the number of staff that sought additional training in February 2023.


The project has ignited interest in further and deeper professional development in this area.

Bulldog Big Buddies (AY 22-23)

Sarah Glassman
James J Ferris High School/Jersey City Public Schools

Goals & Objectives

The goal of this project is to provide newcomer and refugee students with a program to not only help navigate high school and being in the United States, but to discuss their experiences with racism as immigrant and refugee teenagers, too. I started this project with the goal of forty per cent attendance of all newcomer and refugee students for our meetings and events by the end of the 2023-24 school year.

Project Description

Our target population was the approximately 150 students who are new to the country as of this school year, but more specifically, the 60 that arrived from Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras as refugees between the years of 2021 and 2023. This project was needed because with very few exceptions, newcomer and refugee students arrive to our school with no support system in place. They face issues such as language barriers and racism not only in school, but in the Jersey City community as a whole. They are unaware of how to seek help to succeed in school.

The Bulldog Big Buddies Program was created by myself, but it is entirely student run. Coworkers in the ESL/Bilingual Department were asked to help nominate students to serve as mentors and guides for our newcomer students. We recruited students who speak a variety of languages that represent our student population, including Spanish, Arabic, Urdu, Dari, Persian, Haitian Creole, and French. They are all students who have been in school for at least one full year and are familiar with school resources. These students met twice a week during lunch for two reasons: to help students who need assistance navigating school, and to discuss their experiences with racism. These discussions were entirely students led by our mentor students. To ease new students into discussions, they were broken down by language spoken. As a facilitator, my role was to keep conversations going as needed. The last few minutes were dedicated to our large group discussions, which were translated as needed to assist new students. To promote our services, students created a video we shared on our school’s Instagram, in which they spoke in their native languages about their experiences in school. The group also took part of an in school event to promote the opening of our building’s mental health program. Participating in these events kept staff and students aware of our program at all times and ensured participation. Guidance counselors would also reach out to us when new students enrolled so we knew to tell them about the program.

As a group, we organized two events: a welcome breakfast in November and an Open Mic Party in May. The welcome breakfast was an opportunity for students and staff to meet the members of Bulldog Big Buddies and learn about what we offer for newcomer students. The Open Mic Party was our last event for the year and was open to all staff and students to attend. Participants shared poems, short stories, and songs they wrote about their experiences coming to the United States and their experiences with racism in the community. Both events were well attended and will be planned in the future.


This year we saw twenty per cent of our newcomer and refugee students take part in the program. To increase student involvement I plan to have our club offer a meeting once a week after school, in addition to the lunch time meetings. I also plan to hold breakfast meetings once a month. We will have our open mic party again, and possibly host an event in the winter.


This is a two year project, so I plan to continue it next year. I have received a lot of support from school administration and staff in regards to what the program has to offer and what I can do with the future of the program.

KRHS Striving To Do Better (22-23)

Laura Haug
Kittatinny Regional High School

Goals & Objectives

Goal #1

Develop a common language and understanding of bias, micro aggressions, and privilege.

Audience: faculty and staff of KRHS (including SRO, secretaries, and custodians)

Faculty and staff will begin to understand different types of bias, recognize micro agressions, and understand the construct of privilege. Some may even recognize that they can use their privilege to disrupt the status quo and uplift marginalized populations.

Goal #2

Students in 8th Grade Honors English and 10th Grade American Literature courses will engage in dialogue about race, class, and gender after reading a selected book in class. Students will then work in small groups to discuss these critical issues in small “book chat” type groups.

Audience: 8th Grade Honors English and 10th Grade American Literature students

Students will begin to discuss issues of race, class, and gender that may have not been discussed or introduced until this point in their academic career.

Project Description

The KRHS Striving To Do Better project was designed to serve the needs of students and faculty members from Kittatinny Regional High School (KRHS). KRHS is a rural, regional school serving students from four sending districts in grades seven through twelve. Participants were volunteers who were recruited via school announcements and email. Staff members involved in the KRHS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee also helped complete the project.

The target population was chosen because after several DEI training sessions offered to staff during the previous year, the need for more education toward beginning to understand bias, privilege, and race was apparent. Participants were volunteers because several staff members involved in prior training were either disengaged or resentful. Furthermore, students were involved in the project in order to encourage staff members to participate more fully.

The project had two main components. The first component directly involved members of the DEI committee. Rather than hiring out of district professional development individuals or companies, members of the DEI committee worked with students to develop in-house professional development for staff. In one training session, students gave a presentation about environmental racism to small groups of staff members. In another, students presented about using mixed methods research methods to identify bias. The idea was that smaller groups of faculty members would allow for more participation and engagement. Furthermore, the committee felt that adults working in schools are more likely to pay attention to students than to other adults.

The second component of the project involved a student-staff book chat. Sixty members of the school community (students, teachers, paraprofessionals, secretaries) were provided with a copy of The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater. Members of the book club were given about one month to read the book on their own. A 57 Bus Book Chat Google Classroom was set up so that members could share thoughts, ideas, and questions while reading. The large-group book chat was held in the Media Center after school one day. Drinks and snacks were provided. Following the large-group book chat, small group chats were held during lunch periods on later dates. Discussion questions and summaries were given to staff and students before meetings.


Outcome #1

Staff members participated in training sessions during the school day. Students presented on a variety of topics. Presentations were mostly well received. Many staff members asked questions during the presentations. Staff members also began to attempt to use more common language regarding race and privilege.

Outcome #2

Rather than working with the 8th Grade honors courses, staff and student volunteers participated in a 57 Bus Book Chat. This change was made due to possible resistance from parents or community regarding the 8th grade curriculum change without time to gain Board of Education approval. Additionally, combining students and faculty members in a Book Chat format encourage dialogue and learning between groups. The Book Chat was well attended and well received. Surveys designed to assess the outcomes were not completed due to Board of Education policy. Instead, Book Chat members recommended books to be purchased in order to establish a lending library. The lending library is now a fixture in our Media Center.


This project has encouraged dialogue among staff members and students. Some staff members have begun to seek out additional training opportunities. Others have offered to work with students in the future to create more professional development for staff. One staff member chose to use The 57 Bus for her community book club. Students and staff members have worked to begin to understand one another. The lending library is being used. Students have even taken stickers from the lending library to display on water bottles or computers. The process of openly discussing race, bias, and equity has started at KRHS.

Exploring Social Justice Practices (AY 22-23)

Mary-Jo Iarussi Donnelly
Monmouth Regional High School

Goals & Objectives


To explore the practices of Restorative Justice to enhance relationship building skills among interested staff as a method to improve student engagement, student attendance, reduce incidents of ISS, empower student voice, and create a more culturally responsive environment at MRHS.


  • Increase awareness and understanding of restorative justice principles and practices among teachers and staff.
  • Train teachers, staff, and students in restorative practices such as circles and mindfulness practices.
  • Increase awareness of the impact of our unconscious bias on relationships, attendance, and climate.
  • Improve equity literacy
  • Review mitigated solutions vs transformative change
  • Foster a culture of respect, empathy, and accountability within the PLC and school community.
  • Equip teachers and staff with effective communication and conflict resolution strategies.
  • Explore the shift from punitive disciplinary measures to restorative approaches that focus on repairing harm and addressing root causes of behavior.
  • Encourage student involvement in decision- making processes and problem-solving.
  • Support students in taking responsibility for their actions and making amends.
  • Empower students in knowing their voice matters.

Project Description

Exploring Social Justice Practices

Teachers and staff were offered the opportunity to join a yearlong PLC (professional learning community) to explore RJ practices with a Restorative Justice trainer.

23 teachers and 3 administrators chose to join the PLC community.

Students had the opportunity to explore restorative justice practices including participating in circles in the classroom and during Student Equity meetings. Students also had the opportunity to participate in The Human Library Experience: Total student population: 300

Many educational institutions now recognize the value of adopting a balanced approach that combines elements of both punitive and restorative approaches. This allows for a comprehensive approach that addresses the immediate consequences of behavior while also promoting accountability, inclusivity, empathy, growth, and supporting positive relationships. I wanted to create a learning community that offered the opportunity to understand more deeply what’s possible when approaching discipline and relationships through a restorative and equitable lens in the hope of fostering a more culturally responsive community. The following are the practices offered and the outcome of our efforts.

The PLC met with the Restorative Justice trainer Carly McCollow monthly from September through May to visit RJ practices including:

  • The a,b,c’s of social justice – understanding terms and vocabulary.
  • Tier 1 Restorative Practices: Community & Expectations Building: fostering supportive conversations and connections.
  • Explore unconscious bias and the impact on our students, our relationships, and our community.
  • Explore our core values as a member of the community and the values of our school community
  • Explore our strength and challenging as a member of the RJ team and community.
  • Review the ways to live restoratively – exploring mindfulness practices.
  • Participate in RJ circles to build community and trust.
  • Explore Tier 2 Restorative Practices: Addressing Harm within the classroom, community, relationships.
  • Explore Tier 3 Restorative Practices: Reintegration into schools
  • Assessing school climate through Yale School Climate survey.
  • Reviewing school data and assessment tools to evaluate the current state of school and community using RJ Savvy Spectrum.
  • Talking about race in a supportive and culturally responsive manner.

Beyond training: Members of the PLC and other members of the MRHS community joined to review school data and explore areas of growth for the school and community. Sub committees were formed for:

  • Educating staff on unconscious bias and impact on our community
  • Trainer for all staff on 5 Abilities of Equity Literacy
  • Supporting staff in building awareness of social justice concerns
  • Offering The Human Library Experience for students
  • Improving discipline procedures for misconduct and students arriving late to school.
  • Improving hiring practices
  • Exploring methods for creating a more culturally responsive curriculum

Cost of the project: $1200


Although the members of the RJ PLC team decreased from 26 to 6 committed members, from this gathering, a committed group of teachers chose to meet two times per month to use the tools of restorative practices to create transformative action steps to improve the culture of the community.

Although we are not prepared to become a “Restorative School” we are making great strides to become a more culturally responsive school. The following is the outcome of our project together.

  • Building community: Members of the PLC team and committee improved their understanding of RJ practices and the importance of building community through participating in, and practicing “circle keeping”.
    • 78% agreed the PLC improved their understanding of RJ practices.
  • Deeper understanding of RJ: Members of the PLC and the committee developed a deeper understanding of the principles and philosophy behind restorative justice. They learned about the importance of accountability, empathy, inclusivity, and repairing harm in the context of discipline and conflict resolution.
    • 82% agreed the PLC deepened their understanding of empathy, inclusivity, and repair, in the context of discipline.
  • Knowledge of bias: Members of the PLC and members of the larger committee improved their knowledge and understanding of conscious and unconscious bias.
    • 74% agreed to have a deeper understanding of the implications of bias.
  • Transformative change: Staff can assess the difference between mitigated vs transformative change.
    • 90% agree they are now aware of mitigated vs transformative practices.
  • Empower student voice, “unjudge”, and build community: Students of the Junior class participated in The Human Library Experience to share stories around the 15 pillars of prejudice with “Human Books”.
    • 95% of participants agreed it was a positive experience
    • 85% of participants agreed they learned something new
    • 75% stated this event changed their view on a stereotype
    • 72% agreed this event made them more open to ask about and explore unfamiliar topics.
  • Created a new approach to discipline and student tardies: Members of the PLC and the larger committee deepened their understanding of Restorative Justice by developing greater empathy and understanding toward students and their experiences. By exploring the underlying causes and needs behind challenging behaviors, members wanted to change our approach toward discipline and behavior management to a more compassionate and supportive perspective. Suggestions for changing our system is in the process of review for the upcoming school year.
  • Culturally Responsive Curriculum: committee formed to improve our curriculum to meet the needs of our diverse populations and meet the DEI standards.
  • Hiring Practices: committee formed to review and improve the hiring process to improve the diversity of staff.


  • The committee will use their SMART goals to support changes for the following year.
  • The Human Library will be offered again next year to the Junior class.
  • The committee plans to continue the work of creating transformative changes in our community and expanding our work on equity and restorative practices.

The School to College Pipeline: Changing the Course (AY 22-23)

Mellissa Iorio
Freehold High School/Freehold Regional High School District

Goals & Objectives

Increase the amount of Black and Hispanic 9th grade students enrolled in honors courses while increasing awareness among students, parents, school administration, and staff to understand the importance and long-term impact of 9th grade course placement.

Collaborate with administrators to identify resources that will provide academic support for students in pilot program.

Project Description

There is systemic inequity in education that has a negative impact on the Black and Hispanic population throughout their lifespan. The domino effect that includes lower enrollment of Black and Hispanic students in elementary gifted and talented/accelerated programs leads to lower enrollment in honors classes, AP classes, and advanced math classes, thus having a negative impact on college admission and retention, especially in STEM majors which are high earning careers. The purpose of this project is to address trends of lower honors enrollment for 9th grade Black and Hispanic students (Freehold Regional High School District serves only grades 9-12). Targeting the 9th grade population to jumpstart them in the honors pipeline will best prepare them for AP coursework, college admission and college retention.

Grant money was used to purchase HBCU college pennants for each high school to increase HBCU awareness. HBCU shirts were also purchased for school counselors to wear. Copies of Dr. Bettina Love’s book We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Education Freedom was purchased to have available for staff and administration.


Course placement data for the 2022-23 school year was analyzed to review 9th grade honors enrollment by race and sending middle school. The building principal was consulted for support and the data findings were presented to the academic supervisors and administrative team. The presentation also included open discussion of existing barriers among Black and Hispanic students that impacts course placement and how it impacts outcomes beyond high school. There was collaborative effort among the entire team as suggestions were made to ensure this project has the desired impact.

The 2023-24 course placement data was then analyzed and compared to the previous school year placement data. Meetings with each content supervisor occurred to review every student not placed in honors and we worked together to identify students to move up to honors. Both honors and academic levels were added to these student’s course recommendations. School counselors were informed of the initiative and reviewed course recommendations with identified students and their parents during middle school visits when select courses for high school. Counselors were prepared to discuss the relevance and impact on taking honors courses and the students and their parents were able to make an informed decision to choose the course level.

Additionally, Freehold High School has the AVID program that targets first generation college bound, middle achieving, socioeconomically disadvantaged students. A new policy for incoming AVID students included they all must take at least one honors course in 9th grade. This increased the amount of Black and Hispanic students placed in honors courses who were not identified by either the original placement or the pilot program.


Freehold Regional High School District has six high schools. This project initially focused on incoming 9th graders at Freehold High School. The goal is to expand this initiative throughout the district and develop a placement recommendation process that considers equity and access to dismantle systemic pipelining.

Black Student Union: “A Seat at the Table” (AY 22-23)

Amanda Jones
Glen Rock High School

Goals & Objectives

  • Increase Member Engagement measured by meeting and event attendance.
  • Establish School-Wide Awareness via Club collaboration and increased events open to all students.
  • Bond over a Shared Community & Culture through interactive club bonding, brainstorming and conversation.

Project Description

The primary goal of the program is to bond over a shared community within the Black Student Union. Students are given a safe space to express their concerns, converse with each other, and just have fun.

This project has worked to create an equitable space for Black Students, which make up less than 2% of the Glen Rock High School population. Providing them a “Seat at the Table” allows them to create a school environment that is built with them in mind and with their input.

This project has resulted in students working together to feel seen in a community that does not reflect them. By addressing the administration over the recognition and awareness of the concerns of black students at Glen Rock, It has provided them the courage to advocate for themselves within the world, such as in their workplaces, communities and educational institutions.


  • Membership has risen over 100%
  • Club meetings allow BSU students to collaborate within the culture, enjoy each other company and build strong roots within the club dynamic.

Club Events

  • HS/MS Club Walkaround
  • World Cultures Week
  • Black History Month Field Trip
  • Key Club MLK Collaboration Cultural Conversations
  • Food Drive for Summer Food Insecurity
  • Later this Year: “Sunday Dinner” Juneteenth Celebration in Collaboration with 7 Elements


The Black Student Union can further the goals and objectives placed for the 2022-23 year by:

  • Continued collaboration with school administration
  • Broaching sensitive issues pertaining to students of color
  • Mentoring BIPOC Middle School Students
  • Uplifting members voices by giving them positions of power

Building Empathy; Telling Stories

Lisa Kenny
John F. Kennedy Memorial High School/Woodbridge Township School District

Goals & Objectives

The purpose of the project was to build empathy and community throughout our school. John F. Kennedy Memorial High School is a vibrant, diverse school that has embraced DEI and SEL work. Still, even with all of the positives our school has to offer, there are students who feel disconnected from the school community or do not feel represented. In addition, last year it was noted that there had been a rise in HIB instances from before the pandemic to the 2021 school year. I knew we needed to understand ways to build community, empathy, and belonging to create a more inclusive and equitable environment for all members of the school community.

Using already established practices of the School Equity Team (SET) this project attempted to amplify the voices of students and build empathy within our school community by celebrating and valuing the personal stories and experiences of our diverse community.

Overall, I hoped to use art and storytelling as a means to build empathy and community thereby decreasing feelings of alienation and instances of bully and improve the climate of the school overall. I approached the project with the following goals in mind:

  • To come to a deeper understanding of who we are as a school and who we are as the individuals who make up our school community.
  • To use art and storytelling to increase empathy and build community within John F. Kennedy Memorial High School.
  • To deepen the work of the school equity team by turning the lens inward to our own rich and diverse community while continuing to celebrate groups each month (e.g.: AAPI heritage month, Women’s history month).

Students used one word to describe their experience

  • Relieved
  • Joyful
  • Appreciative
  • Free
  • More Understanding
  • Proud
  • Thoughtful
  • Seen
  • Energized
  • Hopeful
  • Excited
  • Connected
  • Happy
  • Empowered

Project Description

Based on our (the SET) goals and objectives, our focus on building empathy, and our desire to improve the overall climate of our school we partnered with Narrative4, a nonprofit organization who focus on building empathy, to accomplish our Social Justice initiative. According to the N4 website, “Narrative4 (N4) is a global organization driven by artists, shaped by educators, and led by students. Our core methodology, the story exchange, is designed to help students understand that their voices, stories, actions and lives matter and that they have the power to change, rebuild and revolutionize systems.” Narrative4’s mission to build classroom connections through stories, art, and education fit perfectly with our project. Narrative4 uses personal storytelling to build empathy between young people so they can improve their communities and the world together. One way they accomplish this mission is through the story exchange. In a story exchange, individuals from a small group are paired together to share a story that in some way defines them. After sharing, pairs come back together as a group and each individual is responsible for telling their partner’s story in the first person. Then the group has the opportunity to reflect. Through the exchange of personal narratives students (and adults) can view the world, their peers, and themselves with more empathy.

To begin, high school and middle school teachers were trained to be story exchange facilitators. Once trained faculty had an understanding of the power of storytelling to build empathy and could begin to work with students. At the high school we met with students three times for prework, first to introduce the project, and then two times to engage in community building and deep listening activities. During this time we built trust with and between the students and paved the way for students to share their stories in safe and productive ways. Students created community norms, they participated in icebreaker activities, and practiced listening and storytelling skills. After the prework, we engaged in two story exchanges with 40-50 high school students. Our desire was to begin a practice that would continue into the future, so we choose not to invite 12th graders and instead we focused on nurturing leaders from grades 9 through 11. After two successful story exchanges, students participated in a third story exchange which combined 40 high school students, 20 middle school students and 17 faculty. The middle school students came to the high school to participate in the exchange with the high school students and we treated them to a catered lunch and time to reflect and talk with the high school students. This event was a culmination of a lot of planning and preparation and students from both the high school and middle school had really positive feedback. After each experience Students provided feedback on the process and reflections. We used student feedback to improve subsequent secessions.

Finally, we asked the high school students to think of other ways we could take what we learned about community building, empathy, and listening and bring it to the rest of the school. We decided on one civic engagement project we could accomplish before the end of the school year. This consisted of beautifying one of the courtyards in the school by creating a Community Rock Garden which could be a concrete expression and celebration of who were are individually and as a community. The entire sophomore class, 350 students, painted rocks together in the cafeteria. These rocks, a tangible symbol of how individuals can come together and create a community, will be used for the community rock garden which we called a Diversity Garden and will be on display for all of the community to enjoy.

Schedule of EventsParticipants
Narrative4 Training Session 1: November 28, 202225 Faculty from JFKMHS and WMS
Narrative4 Training Session 2: November 29, 202225 Faculty from JFKMHS and WMS
Prework Activities Session 1: February 8, 202350 Students and 10 Faculty Facilitators
Prework Activities Session 2: February 15, 202348 Students and 10 Faculty Facilitators
Story Exchange #1: February 24, 202347 Students and 9 Faculty Facilitators
Story Exchange #2: March 1, 202348 Students and 10 Faculty Facilitators
Interschool Story Exchange: March 29, 202340 HS Students, 20 MS Students, and 17 Faculty Facilitators
Rock Painting Activity for the Community Rock garden350 Sophomore Students, 4 Art Teachers, and 12 Faculty and Staff


Our partnership with Narrative4 was a huge success. Students reported that they learned a lot about empathy and being good listeners. Many felt seen and heard and connected to their peers in different ways. I think the biggest testament to our success are the reflections and feedback from the students. Using exit tickets after the prework and the story exchanges, students could reflect and provide feedback, say what they learned, and what they wanted to do next. Students were open, honest and brave as they participated in the project. Here are just a few examples of student responses:

  • Facing your fears can help you grow confidence
  • Be an active listener when someone is talking so you don’t miss anything they are saying
  • You should always be tactful and respectful, without imposing your pre-judgement onto someone.
  • Stories can help form connections with one another
  • Everyone has something to share and you may relate more than you think.
  • I learned that it’s not easy to share stories, but it’s easier to connect with others when you do
  • I learned how to be respectful of other people’s stories and how to be an active listener.
  • It was extremely fun hopefully when weather clears we can go outside
  • We should make it more clear to the group that we shouldn’t comment between stories
  • Deeper prompts?

Finally, our HIB officer reported that instances of bullying from 2021-2022 to 2023 decreased in the school.


Although the initiative was narrower than we anticipated, we laid a strong foundation for our participating students to be leaders in the school community and plan to incorporate more students in the future. Next year we would like to expand the reach of the project to different groups within the school including doing a teacher story exchange and then a teacher and student story exchange. The hope is that story exchanges can become a part of the school culture and used in a variety of ways. We would also like to do more civic engagement to spread empathy and community building throughout the school in order to make our school as inclusive and equitable as possible. One idea that we did not get to do this school year would be for students to run some Professional Development with the faculty that allows them to express their experiences and their ideas for improving equity in the school.

Race IAT Data Collection (AY 22-23)

Jonathan Lyon
South River Public Schools


Students at South River High School, NJ were surveyed using Harvard’s Project Implicit. The specific Implicit Association Test (IAT) used was on Race. The sample data set was collected via a combination of Clustered Random Samples and Stratified Random Sampling. The goal of the sampling was to determine if there are patterns of implicit associations within the student body of the high school.

Goals & Objectives

The goal of the sample set was to determine if there are any patterns of implicit biases in the school. Since the district has a heavy influence of Brazilian, Portuguese, and Mexican students, researchers attempted to see if any patterns might show this demographic and whether the demographic has reactions different to race than a more homogenous sample set that is primarily of European descent.

Data and Methods

Margin of error: %15.43 

Clustered Random Sampling: Data was gathered from a variety of elective courses. These classes are a mixture of all grade levels (9-12), language capabilities, and educational support systems.

Stratified Random Sampling: Data was collected from sophomore English classes, which are a required course and so represent the student population. 

Data Collection: Students were assigned a number through Google Classroom and a random 5-letter word through email as identifiers. Both pieces of data were required on the Google Form for the data to be counted. The listing of identifiers and names were kept in a separate, private Google account so as to keep the results anonymous. Analysis: Despite South River’s relatively small student population leading to a higher-than-normal margin of error, the results are considered to be valid and representative of the population due to the methods of random sampling and data collection


White (Non-Hispanic)Black or African American (Non-Hispanic)Asian (Non-Hispanic)Multi-racial (Non-Hispanic)Native Hawaiian & Other Pacific Islander (Non-Hispanic)Other (Non-Hispanic)White (Hispanic)Other (Hispanic)Multi-racial (Hispanic)Black or African American (Hispanic)American Indian & Alaskan Native (Hispanic)

Possible Results

  • Strong Automatic Preference for European American Compared to African American
  • Moderate Automatic Preference for European American Compared to African American
  • Slight Automatic Preference for European American Compared to African American
  • Little to No Automatic Preference for European American Compared to African American
  • Slight Automatic Preference for African American Compared to European American
  • Moderate Automatic Preference for African American Compared to European American
  • Strong Automatic Preference for African American Compared to European American

Race IAT Results

Little to NoSlight EuroMod. EuroStrong EuroSlight BlackMod. BlackStrong Black


Results show relative parity. There is a slight imbalance favoring European Americans (37.5%) over African Americans (32.5%)(factor: 1.15x). The imbalance does lean towards the stronger results, however. When removing “Slight” results, it favors European (22.5% :: 15%)(factor: 1.5x).


Results indicate a much more balanced view of race within the school compared to data collected over 10

years through the Race IAT ( In this data.

A visual display in a blog post by Jordan Axt ( /piblogpost005.html) shows that there is a strong pro- white bias. This is mirrored in European countries as well.

The implications of the results of the South River survey may indicate that younger respondents are becoming more balanced. This may indicate that implicit biases in regards to race are decreasing, as is represented by the results with 30% of respondents showing little to no bias and said group is almost double the size of the next largest grouping (17.5%).

On the flip side of the 30% is the fact that 70% of respondents still maintain an implicit bias. This indicates that there are still remaining factors in play that are causing individuals to rank one group over another.

In order to better understand the data, future surveys should attempt the following:

  • Expand the scope of the survey to include more respondents (decreases margin of error).
  • Include a section (like Harvard has) to ask about self- identified groupings (looks for patterns)
  • Identify which situations produce the most implicit bias (helps plan future development/remediation)

Data Verification

Sample methods were successful in most cases. Some respondents expressed concern about how to submit their results using the dual-factor verification and required additional explanation/assistance. There was only one data input error that involved spelling the code word incorrectly. There were also respondees who unwittingly skipped past the results page of the IAT and missed seeing their result.

Exploring Alternative to Punitive Discipline (AY 22-23)

Mary Ellen Madden
Woodbridge Township School District

Goals & Objectives

Research has shown that minority students are more likely to receive exclusionary discipline practices.

The main goal of this project was to bring awareness of social inequities to both staff and students. Specifically, looking at the rate of punitive disciplinary actions handed down to BIPOC students.

The objectives of the project were to

  • Educate teachers about culturally responsive classroom practices
  • Educate teachers about alternatives to punitive discipline such as restorative practices
  • Reduce suspension rate of all students. However, paying special attention to the suspension rate of BIPOC students.
  • Involve students in culturally responsive education

Project Description

This project took place in a single middle school in a large diverse suburban school district. The student population of this middle school is as follows:

  • Hispanic: 32.2%
  • White: 28.9%
  • Black or African American: 21%
  • Asian: 17.2%
  • Two or More Races: 0.2%

Discipline has been a problem in this school where the same students, generally BIPOC students, were consistently receiving punitive discipline measures. In the previous year 39% of discipline referrals were given to students who identify as Black or African American while 34% were given to Hispanic students.

In order to shift the trend in discipline referrals several actions took place.

  • Staff members were given professional development in culturally responsive teaching through an outside company
  • Staff members were given instruction in both culturally responsive teaching and restorative practices through PLCs
  • Staff members were asked to analyze equity data
  • Students took part in two Days of Dialogue, giving them opportunities to voice their truth.
  • Students created books, puzzles and board games to be donated within the community focusing on issues related to diversity , equity and inclusions.


  • Staff gained instructional tools to aid in creating more culturally responsive classrooms
  • There was a focus on staff and student relationships
  • Students were given opportunities to have their voices heard
  • Formation of the My Sister’s Keeper club
  • Discipline data showed a decrease in out of school suspension, most specifically in Black and African American Males.
Race2019-202020-212021-222022-23 Pre2022-23 Post


This project has provided information to teachers and administrators within the school which can be utilized for the upcoming school year. In fact, in part due to this project there will be a professional study conducted regarding discipline trends within the school in order to find areas for improvement. The information gained through this project could also be useful to other schools in the district.

Efficacy of New US History Curriculums (AY 22-23)

Michael Mangarelli
Cranford High School/Cranford, NJ

Goals & Objectives

● The goals were to improve our teaching of non-white history and to see if the new curriculum reflected that to students

● A total of three surveys were given:

  1. Teachers were surveyed to see what they wanted more professional development in
  2. Students were surveyed at the beginning of the year
  3. Students were surveyed at the end of the year to see if the PD and new curriculum increased students reporting that more non-white history was taught

Black history median (beginning of year)


Indigenous history median (beginning of year)


Asian-American history median (beginning of year)


Latinx history median (beginning of year)


Project Description

  • The target population of this project were the students in US I and US II classes (excluding AP US History) as well as teachers in the department to find out what areas they wanted more professional development in
  • The needs of the population were twofold:
    1. To assess whether the students felt the new curriculum was properly addressing the histories of people of color
    2. To ensure that the department was prepared to spend more time on and teach in greater depth about the histories of people of color in the United States
  • This purpose of this project was to measure whether students felt that that non-white history was being addressed in the curriculum – then to determine what history the teachers in the department felt they needed more information on to help them teach it
  • Teachers were surveyed to see if they wanted more lesson plans and materials on teaching Black, Indigenous, Asian-American or Latinx history.
  • The program was administered by first surveying teachers to see what they would like more professional development in – then we sought out groups to come into our school during PD days to help give material and lesson plans – then students were surveyed twice – once at the beginning of the year and then again at the end of the year to see if they felt we were giving more voice to the histories of people of color


  • The outcomes varied depending on history – our curriculum saw significant gains in Black history taught to students but less so with Asian-American and Latinx history
  • This is an area that needs to be rectified but when broken down by course we do see a difference (e.g. US II classes had more Latinx history than US I)
  • The overall impact gives great insight into what we as a department need to create a more inclusive and representational curriculum to create more windows and mirrors in our history classes

Black history median (beginning of year)


Indigenous history median (beginning of year)


Asian-American history median (beginning of year)


Latinx history median (beginning of year)



  • The implications of this project and especially important for me as one of the authors of the new curriculum – I can see through data what students are getting from the curriculum to build on our strengths and correct our weaknesses

Artistic Expressions of Race & Identity (AY 22-23)

Kim Mapp
Wayne Valley High School/Wayne Township Board of Education

Goals & Objectives

1500 High school students, 9th-12th grade, and staff members were the focus of the project.

The project was needed to encourage diversity and to create an opportunity for students to express their views about race and identity in a safe environment.

The original goal was to shed light on the construct of race and how it permeates our educational system and society by seeing through the artistic lenses of our youth.

Project Description

Students were asked to submit an art form of their choice that described their view of race, using a 3 question prompt:

  1. How do you see yourself?
  2. How do others see you?
  3. Does race have a significant influence in your life?

Entries were then displayed at an annual wellness fair in March 2023 where students and staff could view the art and written work on trifolds, easels, and looped on a television screen.

In May 2023, there was a culminating celebration for all who contributed to the project. A discussion, held in a restorative circle, addressed feelings about the experience and the school culture. An emphasis on how to make the culture more inclusive was part of the discussion. Foods classes were invited to join the project and they prepared desserts. The intention was to include culinary arts, along with the other arts, in the celebration which allowed a broader scope of the population to engage in discussion while sharing their talents with their peers in a safe and inviting space.


There were some challenges that arose, personally and practically. Having to navigate the system while staying true to my commitment to address race and feelings of “otherness” was sometimes challenging as I measured concerns about potential pushback.

Ultimately, the project goals were met. Along the way there were reminders of why the work is important. Racist images posted on social media and use of derogatory language were prevalent in the school community and needed to be addressed, although not directly linked to the project.


The hope is that a conversation has begun and the message of inclusion has been stated as a goal. Efforts to incorporate the continued promotion of ideas related to the project will be encouraged in an extracurricular club, Students Against Destructive Decisions. The goal will be to have students use their voices and talents to raise awareness about equity and acceptance to promote a more inclusive environment.

Make the World a Better Place (AY 22-23)

Carrie Meyer
Bay Head School, Bay Head, NJ

Goals & Objectives

My initial plan was to measure the familiarity and use of common and appropriate vocabulary related to race, racism and self awareness. It also included a goal of surveying students regarding whether they see instances of bias or prejudice in the world around them, and then working toward improving the situation or the factors contributing to these instances. The specific focus of these projects, though inspired by the Social Justice Academy and guided by Learning for Justice, were student-directed.

Project Description

  1. The target population, directly, was the 14 students in grades 3-5 who participated in our school’s Advanced Academics and Enrichment Language Arts program. However, the work of the students was so impressive that the project impacted the entire school population, community, and beyond.
  2. Our school population is largely comprised of white, economically advantaged families who don’t have enough opportunities in school to experience or talk with people who have experienced instances of social injustice.
  3. Content of Program A portion of the SJA grant money was used to purchasenon-fiction text written by and about BIPOC historical figures and literature on the subject of diversity and inclusion. This literature was coupled with lessons from Learning for Justice, and used to spark discussions asking students to consider if any common challenges emerge that they see in our own school or community, and if these conversations spur them into action. These discussions were related to the following terms: ability, culture, gender, identity, sterotype, race, diversity, connection, perseverance, curiosity, unequal representation, activism, author’s purpose, fairness, justice, point of view, critical thinking, bias, access.
  4. Those discussions motivated students to create a running list of topics they thought needed improvement in our world. Later in the year, that long list of topics was narrowed down to one topic which became the focus of their “Make the World a Better Place” project. Each student was given a portion of the grant money (roughly $75) to use to accomplish their goals.


(B.W.) Butterflies are frequent symbols in literature. B.W. researched the plight of the monarch butterfly and learned they’re in danger of extinction. She purchased butterfly kits and nets and plans on talking with younger aged school-mates about monarch butterfly protection while helping them learn about the lifecycle of a butterfly and the importance of symbolism and transformation.

(G.P.) is working on conducting a school-wide book drive and plans to donate these books to Bridge of Books Foundation, whose mission is to “provide an ongoing source of books to underserved children throughout New Jersey in order to support the development of literacy skills and to encourage a love of reading.” G.P. donated his money to the organization, as well.

(D.Q) used her money to purchase books for children in which the main character is a person living with a disability. DQ plans to add these books to the school’s “Book Nook” so that they can be borrowed. She also plans to offer “read alouds” of the books to students upon teacher request.

(M.F.) used her grant money to purchase mason jars which she is turning into kindness jars, filled with inspirational quotes that can help motivate school mates who might need encouragement.

(C.U.) is organizing a school-wide Positive Partner activity in which older students are paired with younger students to create Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, and Happy Day cards. She will then take these cards to the residents of a local rehabilitation and healthcare center.

(H.G. and E.S.) saw a need for more choices during recess. They are creating student clubs for next school year during recess and using their grant money to purchase the supplies for these clubs. They believe having more choices will alleviate some of the conflicts they’ve seen on the playground.

(D.C. and S.C.) are supporting service dogs through Canine Companions, an organization that provides service dogs to adults, children, and veterans with disabilities. They used their grant money to purchase a vest and one month of food and toys, as well as access to expert medical care.

(C.K. and R.W.) are creating a school supply store filled with supplies students will need in the classroom during the next school year. They plan to donate profits to an organization that fights childhood cancer.

(J.B.) researched facts about the federal minimum wage and learned that Representative Robert Scott is one lawmaker working to raise it. JB wrote a letter to Rep. Scott, and showed his support of this bill by purchasing a flag that was flown over the Capitol building. He was also presented with a certificate from Representative Scott.

(C.O.) is taking steps toward salary parity for WNBA players. CO wrote a letter to the Commissioner of the WNBA with details of his research on this topic, inviting her to come speak in Bay Head on the issue and offering support.

(S.K.) is working to petition BHS administration and Board of Education members to expand the AAE program. She has been organizing her thoughts into a persuasive presentation which will soon be shared at a Board of Education meeting.


An important lesson mentioned by several students was that the money helped motivate them initially, but that it wasn’t always a necessary component to improve a situation. All of them also agreed that one person can make a huge difference!

Project SEAT (AY 22-23)

Kathleen Mueller, PhD
Central Regional High School / Central Regional School District

Goals & Objectives

We know broadly that BIPOC and economically disadvantaged students are underrepresented in higher level classes – specifically AP and Dual Enrollment classes – even in the absence of any codified gatekeeping policies.

We also know that many BIPOC and economically disadvantaged students have been underserved by the education system long before they reach high school. This project is aimed at giving them a SEAT at the academic table.

SEAT will aim to address these issues in two ways: Help BIPOC and economically disadvantaged students

  1. See a high level academic path as an option for them – removing stigmas and stereotypes
  2. Make sure they have the skills for success in that path.

Project Description

SEAT stands for Students Engaged in Academic Transcendance, but the idea of taking a “seat at the table” is inspired by the great Shirley Chisolm.

Through various communication routes, I recruited an initial cohort of mentee student participants. Initially I invited approximately 300 students in grades 9- 11 who fell into at least one of several underrepresented demographics: specifically, BIPOC and economically disadvantaged students. From that, and through other existing organizations, I gathered a student group of approximately 20 semi-regular participants. The membership at any given meeting was pretty fluid.

I had already gained the participation of 10 – 15 student mentors all of whom were seniors in at least one AP course. We called this group the Navigators.

Participants in the program will:

  • Participated in monthly meetings with me and the mentors, during which we engage in some academic discussion. We talked about various course levels, college applications, course selection, academic rigor, preparation for college.
  • I was also able to have pull-out meetings with some students to check-in, address academic issues
  • Students had access to Navigators after school on set days.
  • I planned guest speaker presentations by graduated students talking about their experiences (These did not happen, but are planned again for next year.
  • Introduce students to a college campus with a tour of Stockton University.


  • Monthly meetings regularly included roughly 20 participants. At those meetings participants were lead through topics aimed at helping them elevate their academic pathways from course selection for each year, through college applications senior year.
  • Extended Study Hours for final exams 9spring) attended by roughly 25 students each of 4 days.
  • 10 Seniors were helped by Navigators to complete and submit their Common App and FAFSA.
  • Course selection numbers are not determined for next year yet, but a number of students have already chosen to level up their English courses, including moving into Honors and AP level courses.
  • 34 Students attended a trip to Stockton University for a campus tour and admissions presentation. One senior student turned in an application that day! Others now have a greater understanding of the academic expectations and how to meet them.


  • New student mentors have risen to take the lead next year.
  • Underclassmen have requested continued support and more college tours!
  • The district has committed to supporting Project SEAT and its efforts to engage students in higher level academics next year.

Through Eagle Eyes: Developing Racial Identity Through Photojournalism (AY 22-23)

Aleya Nelson, M. ED
Truth Middle School (EOSD)

Goals & Objectives

The goal of the project is for students to advance their knowledge of racial identity and its implications in school and the greater community through photojournalism. After reading Stamped (For Kids), students will create and exhibit photo essays to document the process in a showcase.

  • Specific: Photo essays
  • Measurable: Pre- and post-survey
  • Attainable: Meet with students weekly and bi-weekly depending on project timeline
  • Relevant: Deepen understanding of racial identity using popular medium, photography
  • Time-bound: September to June of 2022-2023 School Year

To measure success, participating students will take a pre- and post-survey. Students will be asked questions in regards to three areas: (1) development of their own racial identity, (2) school environment, and (3) overall community perception. The project will be deemed impactful if students’ survey responses improve from pre- and post-survey.

Project Description

Through Eagle Eyes focused on racial identity development and exploring systems students engage in that are impacted by racism. 9 BIPOC 6th grade students at Sojourner Truth Middle School (East Orange, NJ) documented this development using photojournalism. The project included two phases.

In phase 1, students will participated in a guided book study on Stamped (For Kids) by Jason Reynolds, Ibram X. Kendi, & Sonja Cherry-Paul. The book study provided students with the necessary terms and definitions to describe their experiences.

In phase 2, students conducted a virtual visit of the International Center of Photography to explore the question, “what can we tell about a person’s identity from a photograph?” Students then started capturing photos of their everyday life (self, school, community) using disposable cameras. After the camera film is developed, students constructed photo essays that connect their racial identity development to the world around them. Finally, students showcase their work amongst peers, teachers, families, and other community stakeholders.

The cost of the project was $1,200. The funds were used to secure the literature, cameras, and necessities for the showcase.


  • Students became better aware of how race impacts their everyday life including school and their community.
  • Students learned of historical instances of racism and anti-racism after the chapter book.
  • Students engaged in discourse that is not often made time for in educational settings with their peers.
  • Students were able to examine and document their lives through film and relate these to newly learned topics.
  • Students practiced public speaking to present their findings to the school community.
  • Students gathered a sense of self-love and appreciation for their racial identity and life experiences, as well as brainstormed some solutions to areas they deemed problematic.


The project implies the need to provide all students with avenues to read and discuss historical instances that impact their daily life. Book studies that are relevant to the student population are necessary and can give each student the foundation to continue discourse and enact change in their lives and community.

This project could be carried out with a larger population of students in the coming years, as well as getting teachers and parents to read the adult version of Stamped so there can be an even further reach.

Finally, giving students an outlet like photography is impactful and gives students a voice in world that often leaves them voiceless.

We Are All Unique We Are All Equal (22-23)

Filomena Parisi
Passaic Public School District

Goals & Objectives

The goal of the project is for students to develop an understanding that all people are unique but also the same through diverse literature and planned activities supporting key concepts.

The students will begin to demonstrate their understanding within the classroom. This understanding will be demonstrated in their interactions and their conversations. The students will take a sense of belonging into their families and communities.

They will become Social Justice Ambassadors within the school and educate other classes on the concepts they have learned throughout the year and gift those classes with books for their classroom library focused on diversity.


The impact of the project will be measured through documentation panels featuring samples of student work including drawings and writings. The documentation will include the students’ learning through photos and anecdotal records.

Target Population

Students aged 3-7 living in a inner city community in an Abbot District. The student body at the schools is 1% white, 4% Black, 1.6% Asianor Asian/Pacific Islander, 93%Hispanic/Latino/ 0.1% American Indian or Alaska Native, and 0.1% Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. In addition, 0.1% of students are two or more races. (US News and World Report)

Project Description

Rich, diverse literature was selected to begin a Diversity Library for each of the 10 classrooms at School 15. Each classroom received 4 books delivered to them by my class as the Social Justice Ambassadors for Vincent Capuana School 15. The diverse literature allows students to see themselves and their community in print and helps to develop a sense of belonging and develop a sense of value in the world. The literature will allow students to also develop an awareness of different perspectives as well as broaden their experiences with cultures, religions, races, and gender identity.The goal of the Diversity Library is to begin rich discussions supported by varied lessons to help the children create a classroom in which all children feel included and equal.

A Social Justice Committee was created at the school to support the work of this project. This committee worked closely to plan activities and lessons supporting diversity and inclusion for school-wide participation. Monthly small group lessons were created to foster discussions on what diversity means and how students can celebrate their uniqueness and the uniqueness of others. In weekly Grade Level Meetings, teachers and administration discussed highlights and provided feedback on the literature as well as the activities planned.

As Social Justice Ambassadors, my class took on a leadership role within our school community. They became role models to other classes and students. One example of this is when the class provided a “Day of Service” in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Each day the class provided service for different members of our school community. Each day the class helped out a different department of the school, for example the custodial staff, the cafeteria staff, security, etc. The highlight of this week was when the class set up a water station in the gym for other classes to come, take a break and recharge their bodies with a cool glass of water. Simple acts of kindness and helping others no matter who they are or what they look like set a tone of respect throughout the class and the school community.

As Social Justice Ambassadors, the class invited our District Superintendent, Dr. Diodonet to come visit and read to the class. The invitation was accepted and Dr. Diodonet read B Is For Breathe by Melissa Boyd. This book celebrates the many different ways children can express emotions and develop coping skills for dealing with them. The illustrations are full of diverse children representing many ethnicities.

Understanding the importance of our work and witnessing the impact on the class, school and community, Dr. Diodonet has begun monthly reading from our Social Justice Library. Having our district superintendent a part of the project has broaden the scope and has allowed the project We Are All Equal, We Are All Unique to influence and impact more students and a greater part of the Passaic community.

With her support and the support of the school principal, the project will continue into 2023-2024.


The outcomes of this project surpassed my original goals. The project was embraced by my school

principal, Dr. Barbosa. Together, we created a Social Justice Committee within the school and planned monthly activities to support concepts and further awareness.

Teachers followed lessons and activities planned by our committee. Each classroom was given books to begin a social justice library so discussion could begin and young children could learn the importance of being unique and treating all people fairly.

My own class took an incredible journey. They learned about respect and kindness. They led the school community by being Social Justice Ambassadors by performing Acts of Service for example.

The project further expanded when our Superintendent came to read one of our Social Justice books to the class. Dr. Diodonet acknowledged the impact the project was making and it became a monthly event to read to our class and other classes in our school community books from our Social Justice library.
The project will end with a schoolwide “Color Run”. A festival celebrating colors and installing our color rock garden to honor the beauty in diversity.


We Are All Unique, We Are All Equal has given me a sense of purpose. The project will continue through our school committee and our shared passion for the importance of starting at a young age to teach about kindness and respect.

Plans for 2023-2024

  • Apply for EAP Instructional Council Grant in order to purchase more books for a growing Social Justice Library
  • Continue the Social Justice Committee
  • Share the large Social Justice library with teachers
  • Plan schoolwide activities and lessons for 2023- 2024
  • Incorporate parents and community into events

The Third Option: Social Justice Club (AY 22-23)

Alison Patterson
South River High School/ South River Board of Education

Goals & Objectives

The “Third Option” is a social justice club established in South River High School. The focus of this club is to educate students on the social injustices and racial equality within our school and local communities.

Through this club students will be able to:

  • Become aware of injustice around them
  • Increase their knowledge about issues of social injustice by reading newspapers, internet resources, and talking to others interested in creating change
  • Volunteer with other organizations that are promoting change
  • Have conversations with friends to spread their insight in social injustice
  • Stand up and speak up! Intervene when they witness an injustice and be a voice for themselves and others.

By implementing this club and helping students to reach this goal, we will further enrich and create a more inclusive community within SRHS. Furthermore, students will develop and become beacons of strong character and integrity which further aligns with the High School’s goal of becoming a school of character.

Project Description

Students at South River High School, NJ were surveyed using Harvard’s Project Implicit. The specific Implicit Association Test (IAT) used was on Race. The sample data set was collected via a combination of Clustered Random Samples and Stratified Random Sampling. The goal of the sampling was to determine if there are patterns of implicit associations within the student body of the high school.

Students at South River High School also took an anonymous survey at the beginning and end of the project year to compare and contrast their views of the school with the Harvard’s Implicit Association Test.

  • Strong Automatic Preference for European American Compared to African American
  • Moderate Automatic Preference for European American Compared to African American
  • Slight Automatic Preference for European American Compared to African American
  • Little to No Automatic Preference for European American Compared to African American
  • Slight Automatic Preference for African American Compared to European American
  • Moderate Automatic Preference for African American Compared to European American
  • Strong Automatic Preference for African American Compared to European American

Race IAT Results

Slight BlackMod. BlackStrong BlackSlight EuroMod. EuroStrong EuroLittle to No

Do you feel South River is Racially Diverse

YesNoVery Little
13 responses

Do you feel the teachers in South River are Racially Diverse

13 responses

Do you feel the district makes enough efforts to allow for the voices and opinions of the minority races to be heard?

YesNoMore should be done for mioritiesLess should be done for minorities
13 responses


Outcomes of The Clubs Social Involvements

  • Hosted “The Value of Culture in the Classroom: Culturally Responsive Teaching” In-Service Professional Development for High School Staff.
  • Students were able to encourage their peers through creation and display of various posters and the “Chain of Encouragement.”
  • Students were educated in their English and social justice class on different forms of racism and how to stand up/speak out against wrong doings.
  • Students met with administration to change the student policy handbook to be more racially and culturally inclusive.
  • Students were able to participate in the “Day of Dialogue” and various field trips that discussed and helped them to explore Identity

For the Harvard Implicit Bias Test

The results of the South River survey may indicate that younger respondents are becoming more balanced. This may indicate that implicit biases in regards to race are decreasing, as is represented by the results with 30% of respondents showing little to no bias and said group is almost double the size of the next largest grouping (17.5%). On the flip side of the 30% is the fact that 70% of respondents still maintain an implicit bias.


The impact of “The Third Option: Social Justice Club” can continue beyond the academy in the following ways:

  • Continued Professional development for all teaching staff in the SR school district
  • Course curriculum changes to include more racially and culturally diverse materials that reflect the student population
  • Continued field trips to expose the students to different learning environments, cultures, and ways of thinking.
  • The High School will implement a “Culture Day” in which the students are encouraged to celebrate their cultures.
  • At the beginning and end of each year students will take a climate and culture survey to show the changes in various biases held within the student body. This will aid to decrease HIB incidents within the school.

Belonging Matters: Removing Blinders Through Conversation and Action (Ay 22-23)

Marisol Perez Ed.D
Howell High School/Freehold Regional High School District

Goals & Objectives

The goal of the project was to create a Diversity Equity and Inclusion Team (DEI) that would work to understand their own biases, the impact of those biases in a classroom setting and to raise awareness schoolwide to remove the structures that promote marginalization.

Next Steps

Creating a google classroom for DEI team to share articles and book ideas.

Staff-Student Check ins.

More DEI Training from outside professionals in the field.


Monies were used to order journals/pens, food for our after school meetings and books to continue the conversations around the topic.

Project Description

The project focused on the development of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Team. Through an awareness lens, the project was geared towards developing an understanding of implicit bias that can go unnoticed and seep into classrooms. The actionable focus was to discuss offering professional development towards raising that awareness school wide and working towards removing the structures that promote marginalization.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are the programs, policies, strategies, and practices that a school must use to create and sustain a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment (Qualtrics, 2022).

In order to honor the school’s commitment to equity of ensuring a safe, inclusive, and collaborative school community to ensure equity for all (Freehold Regional High School District, 2022) and to look at the project through an activism lens, the DEI team had conversations to identify team biases, identified opportunities for equity in the school building, and had discussions about activities, training and other resources that would provide the remaining staff the opportunities for professional development of same.


The development of the DEI team was well received by both administration and staff. The DEI team was comprised of 30 members. Although some participation dwindled, the team always had 10-15 members at every meeting.

As a result of the meetings:

  • Staff members enhanced their awareness and understanding of key terms such as bias and privilege and the implications of having both.
  • Staff members fostered relationships with eachother as they spoke honestly about their shortcomings as a result of bias
  • Staff members were able to define implicit bias and how these biases can have a negative impact in their classrooms.


As a result of the project, the team developed a list of activities and created a vision for “next steps”. Next steps were shared with the school’s administration who overwhelmingly accepted many of the suggestions.

All Bears Belong at BA (AY 22-23)

Caryn Petrikonis
Brunswick Acres/South Brunswick Township Schools

Goals & Objectives

Create a school based Equity Committee to help build cultural awareness and identify implicit biases in education to better serve the needs of our diverse school population.

Project Description

The Target Audience for my project was the certified staff at Brunswick Acres Elementary.

This project provided staff PD and training to help build cultural awareness and identify implicit biases in education to better serve the needs of our diverse school population.

I had a voluntary book club that meet in the mornings before school for 5 months. During these meetings we used a turnkey approach to learn about classroom/school techniques from the book, Removing Labels: 40 Techniques to Disrupt Negative Expectations About Students and Schools.

Upon completion of the book club, the rest of the school staff received the book and training at staff meetings. The committee shared some of the techniques from the book and discussed how they can be implemented in our school to better meet all of our learners needs.


Greater awareness of implicit biases

Open discussion on changes that can be made to have more inclusive classrooms

Schoolwide initiatives, more culturally inviting signs, posters etc.


This work will continue into the 2023-2024 school year we changes implemented for the fall specifically focusing on classroom and school climate.

Sandburg Cares (Ay 22-23)

Lauren Piserchia, LCSW, SAC
Carl Sandburg Middle School / Old Bridge Township Public Schools

Goals & Objectives

  1. Increase membership of “Diversity Club”
  2. Collaborate activity with staff and administration
  3. Promote a partnership between multicultural student clubs at Old Bridge High School and CSMS with CSMS Diversity Club.
  4. Expose students to a variety of cultures through food, music, dance and art.

Project Description

Target Population

Located in Old Bridge, New Jersey, Carl Sandburg Middle School serves 981 diverse learners, including students from a wide variety of racial, ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Needs of Target Population

Based on the evolving needs of our students and staff, additional interventions were created

to cultivate and support inclusion for all individuals. Specifically, this project focused on the need to promote a culturally responsive learning environment based on the expanding diversity of our student population.

Formed in October of 2022, The Carl Sandburg Middle School “Diversity Club” was created to amplify diversified student voices within our school. During weekly meetings supervised by volunteer faculty, students developed relationships based on mutual respect in order to allow for open communication regarding topics related to the appreciation of diversity and multiculturalism.

To enhance the school community, the secondary goal of the program was to amplify the voices of our members to express the benefits of multicultural inclusion to our staff and administration.


  1. Enrollment increased from 15 members in October of 2022 to 50 members in May of 2023.
  2. Diversity Club hosted an “Ice Cream Social” with opportunities for dialogue with faculty members guided by club members.
  3. Hosted joint meets with Diversity Club and OBHS Black Student Union and Muslim Student Association as well as the CSMS Chinese Club.
  4. Celebrated the following cultures through food, music, dance and art.
    1. Ghanaian
    2. Chinese
    3. Asian Indian
    4. Mexican


Based on their involvement in the program, students are now equipped with an expanded motivation to immerse themselves within environments and cultures that differ from their own.

Additionally, students have expressed an interest in expanding the program to increase enrollment and the scope of the program.

Anti-Racism Awareness Project (AY 22-23)

Kevin Preston
Spring Lake Heights School

Goal & Objectives

Goal of the Project

Awareness: Developing common and appropriate language around race and racism

Measurement of Goals

Assess curriculum documents of staff to measure updates in areas of diversity

  • Curriculum documents were reviewed by myself as part of the Diversity Equity & Inclusion Team
  • Documents were updated with new resources to introduce diversity and anti-racism education into the Pre K-8th Grade classroom
  • Staff were introduced to these changes and resources in a faculty meeting

Classroom observations

  • Our newly formed Diversity Equity & Inclusion committee held classroom observations when teachers were introducing new resources to their classrooms.
  • We held reflection meetings post-observation to discuss ideas and findings.

Staff Surveys

  • The staff was given a survey in the beginning of the school year, September 2022, and another in March 2023. Staff were asked a series of questions about diversity and anti-racism education in the school.
  • First Survey Findings – Over 75% of staff members believed that diversity and anti-racism were not being discussed enough in the classrooms. Over 90% of staff felt that they were not properly trained or educated on introducing diversity or anti-racism topics in their classrooms.
  • Second Survey Findings – Over 60% of staff stated that they have started to introduce more diversity and anti-racism into their classrooms. Over 70% of staff stated that they are more comfortable now introducing these themes to their students.

Project Description

Target Population – 81 members of the Spring Lake Heights faculty and staff

Needs of the Target Population – Spring Lake Heights is a town with an over 95% white population, a school with almost a 90% white population, and a staff population that is 100% white. Due to these numbers, there is a lack of awareness in the school and community in regards to race and racism. Much of this lack of awareness is due to the inexperience and minimal diversity that is seen in the community and school. Through growing awareness of race and racism among the teachers and staff in the building, Spring Lake Heights could grow into an actively anti-racist school. If the teachers and staff can become more educated in race and racism, they can better instill these lessons with their student interactions.

Content of the Program

Three faculty meetings

  • Meeting #1: Introduced social justice and anti-racism terminology and ideas. Distributed a copy of Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine to staff members to give them some new perspectives on diversity and anti-racism. Staff participated in activities to create a safe environment and trust with one another for future discussions and collaboration.
  • Meeting #2: Manager of a local book store brought in dozens of books that would help our teachers introduce diversity, equity, and inclusion into their classrooms.
  • Meeting #3: Small group discussions/reflections on what teachers have been doing to introduce anti-racism and DEI into their classrooms. Discussion on Citizen: An American Lyric. Distributed an article by the Anti-Defamation League titled: “How Should I Talk about Race in My Mostly White Classroom?”.

New books for staff

  • Each member of the staff received a copy of Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine. This book will be used to give a glimpse of racism to the staff that they do not see in their daily lives. Claudia Rankin’s book “recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV-everywhere, all the time”.
  • Approximately 300 new books were ordered from our local book store. The books are for a wide range of reading levels, including multiple copies of books for middle school reading groups.
  • We started a DEI bookshelf in our faculty copy room.

Curriculum updates

  • As part of the newly created Diversity & Inclusion Team, we updated K-8 curriculum to align to new standards.
  • We shared updates with staff at a collaboration meeting


Staff has responded well to the new vocabulary and goals of introducing anti racism and diversity into their lessons and curriculum.

Based on survey results, staff presently feel more comfortable and prepared teaching anti- racism and diversity in their classrooms.

Based on survey results, the introduction of new books and resources was the most effective way to prepare the teachers to introduce new topics.

Based on survey results, the majority of staff members are willing and excited to continue working towards a more diverse and well- rounded curriculum.


Due to the success of this program, I am excited to continue the work this summer and in future school years.

There was a clear problem in our school district with lack of diversity, and starting the conversation with the staff was just the beginning.

The next step, along with continuing to work with the staff, will be to focus on the students and members of the local community (including parents). Students are still bringing personal bias from their homes, so if we can educate community members and parents then we can make a lasting impact on this small town.

Social Justice and Change Through Music(AY 22-23)

Anissa Richard-Jones, Patricia Pierce and Kim Bergamini
Passaic Gifted and Talented Academy School #20, Passaic Public Schools

Goals & Objectives

  • Students will increase their knowledge of vocabulary that relates to race, ethnicity, gender, culture, color and nationality.
  • Data will be collected through a pre and post- survey.
  • Teach students social justice through the introduction of music as a vehicle for change
  • As a culminating activity, students will create a song or poem of their own to either highlight their culture or identity or to speak out against injustice

Project Description

  • This was a pilot program targeting 22- 5th grade students.
  • We started with a survey to determine where students were in regards to understanding race, ethnicity, gender and other identifying factors.
  • Over the course of a couple of weeks, we discussed Micro- aggressions, Race vs. Ethnicity and Colorism (song “Brown Skin Girl” by Beyonce)
  • We discussed the song “Yankee Doodle” as one of the first examples of music used as a form of social expression during the Revolutionary War.
  • We next discussed the Underground Railroad and how music was used by enslaved Africans as a means of sending coded messages about escape plans.(“Follow the Drinking Gourd” and “Wade in the Water”)
  • After spirituals, we discussed the music of the Civil Rights Movement starting with “We Shall Overcome”, “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize”, “Oh Freedom” and finishing with “Change Is Gonna Come”
  • We moved onto Women’s Rights and talked about “Ladies First” by Queen Latifah, “Scars to Your Beautiful” by Alessia Cara, “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga and Video by India Arie.
  • Future topics will include the Black Lives Matter Movement and protest songs in Latin America. This will feature songs such as “March” by the Chicks and “Glory” by Common featuring John Legend.


  • Students were able to define terms relating to ethnicity,culture, race and nationality.
  • Students were able to understand that the idea of color is based on biology.
  • Students were able to discuss the meanings behind various songs and how they related to and/or represented various social movements throughout our country’s history, ie., the underground railroad, civil rights movement, BLM, women’s rights.
  • As a culminating activity, students were able to explore music at the Grammy Museum in Newark, NJ


We are hoping to continue this program in the coming years, incorporating other classes and other grade levels.

Joining the Hard Conversation (AY 22-23)

Allison Ringer, M.Ed.
Neptune Middle School, Neptune Township School District

Goals & Objectives

  • Introduce the Middle School students to anti-racism vocabulary
  • Introduce the Middle School students to anti-racism topics
  • Work with Middle school students to help them feel comfortable discussing racism and how to be an anti-racist
  • Use mindfulness and art to help channel feelings and thoughts
  • Equip the students with the skills needed to have hard conversations

Project Description

Target Population: Middle School Students, Sixth through Eighth Grade (11-15 YO)

Neptune Middle School educates approximately 700 students.

Sharing about racism can be an uncomfortable conversation. The design of this project was to encourage the students to talk feelings and experiences concerning racism and equality.

The program consisted of weekly mindfulness activities and crafts that encouraged the students becoming comfortable and open about their feelings and experiences as they pertains to racism.

The introduction of common vocabulary allowed the students to become familiar with the terminology associated with anti-racism.


The students became familiar with the terms introduced and began to use them in their everyday conversations. They became more aware of the constraints racism places on relationships and worked to eradicate theses limitations.


The students learned life lessons that have potential future use in they view the world. They will carry these anti-racism views with them through Middle School and beyond.

Empowering Our Kids on UnCommon Ground (AY 22-23)

Nydiadra Rivers & CJHS students
Churchill Junior HS/ East Brunswick Schools

Goals & Objectives

Primary goal is for students to have an increased sense of empowerment as well as an increased sense of connectedness and belongingness within their academic setting (peers, staff, academics, etc..

I plan on measuring the success and/or positive impact of the project by using pre/post surveys (in the form of a Likert scale) to assess students’ thoughts and feelings prior to and after having an active role in our BIPOC student group. I will utilize the numerical data from the surveys to record my quantitative data as well as utilize students’ verbal remarks and feedback throughout the year to record as my qualitative data.

  • Students of UnCommon Ground were provided a form (Likert scale) in the Fall and Spring to assess students’ connectedness and level of support within school before and after the implemented programming.

The purpose of this project is to positively impact students’ emotional safety, increase connectedness between our BIPOC students and the climate of the school, as well as
positively impact the level of student support for our BIPOC student body. The goal of this project is to empower our BIPOC students to celebrate who they are, always.

Project Description

The demographics of our school’s campus (of over 2000 students) is as follows: White 51% ; Asian 35% ; Latinx 7% ; Black 6% ; Native American less than 1%

Given the above breakdown, one could agree that while there is a range of different cultures in the building, there is also major disproportion within the percentages. Moreover, the above breakdown is reflected just the same within the school’s staff and the local community. Providing a dedicated space for our BIPOC students was necessary. Our BIPOC student group, UnCommon Ground, was birthed from students’ request for a space to talk about hard topics, current events, cultural events, frustrations, joyous moments etc. As a (strong) group, last year our students were able to create that safe space, organize events, educate peers, recognize historical/current struggles, celebrate culture, etc. The plan this year was to not only continue with all that has been done in the previous year, but to expand. Aside from weekly group meetings our BIPOC student group has hosted the following events this year:

  1. Club fair (10/4)- school event where clubs recruit new members
  2. Initial interest meeting (10/11)- students who expressed interest at club fair receive further overview of the club’s purpose.
  3. Special Guest Speaker Officer Wright (11/16)- met with the student group with underlining message of “empowerment”
  4. Holiday Luncheon (12/22)- students of the group spent time together breaking bread before the holiday recess
  5. Movie Night (2/17)- students collaborated with our school’s student council to host a movie night (in celebration of BIPOC Future month) where students chose a movie with a BIPOC cast.
  6. Culture/Diversity Presentations (3/30)- students created cultural presentations to share with 4th grade students at two of our district’s elementary schools. The motto for the day was, “See the Light for each other, Be the Light for each other.”
  7. Field trip to BAM Theatre (4/27)- students attended a wonderful collage of spoken word from specialty crafted artists signifying “Reimaging the Griot (cultural storyteller)
  8. Project Unity (6/1)- students will be partnering with our school’s International Cultures Club (ICC) and Gender and Sexuality Partnership Group (GASP) to have an afternoon of food and art in celebration of Juneteenth and Pride month. Our district has not yet acknowledged Juneteenth as a national holiday and so I will support our BIPOC students in becoming creative with how we can acknowledge/celebrate the Juneteenth holiday in school.

This year our BIPOC student group (33 students) UnCommon Ground, was able to push through with personal discussions, group planning, school based and district wide events to celebrate culture and “self” in a creative way. All ideas for this year’s club initiatives were student led, I simply executed the necessary steps behind the scenes to make it happen for our kids.


Prior to student groupwork and program planning, students were sent a form to complete in the Fall to assess their educational experience. Later in the Spring, students were provided the same form to complete following the implementation of our group’s programming. Although not all students followed through with completing the form, there was a difference in pre and post responses.

Additional, qualitative date was received in the form of verbal student feedback following planned events/programs, as well as a slideshow with students expressing gratitude for all that we have accomplished this year.

PRE: How has your overall educational experience been as an EB student?

16 responses

POST: How has your overall educational experience been as an EB student?

16 responses


Holding space for our BIPOC students is imperative for our students in feeling heard and seen. Witnessing the enhanced communication and positive interactions between my students and their peers, staff, and other persons provided the qualitative data supporting the reasons why our students of this population benefit from additional (tailored) support. Students have collectively expressed gratitude and a sense of self-respect following their planned events. Our students worked diligently this year in following through with events and celebrations that speak to their culture and traditions. Having our Project: UNITY event dedicated to Juneteenth has our kids extremely proud; as this important holiday is not acknowledged on our school’s calendar at this time. Through collaboration within and outside district, we were able to make this happen; will take place on Thursday (6/1).

Falcon Youth Development Program (AY 22-23)

Ariana Robertson, M.Ed.
Monmouth Regional High School (MRHS)

Goals & Objectives

This program targets students in grades 9th-12th from the underrepresented demographic population at Monmouth Regional High School. The vast majority were black, hispanic, and economically disadvantaged students enrolled.


  • Increase support for underrepresented & underserved students at Monmouth Regional High School by measuring attendance of staff involved
  • Educate students on the school handbook policies
  • Support students after they have received consequences for misconduct
  • Equip students with coping skills and strategies to make better decisions so they can cultivate a safe and secure learning environment
  • Increase awareness of restorative practices to educators to cultivate a culturally responsive environment through one on one discussions.
  • Peer review of situational challenges can help intercept students perspective when faced with a similar challenge in the future, which may result in a more positive outcome for all students.

Project Description

Many disadvantaged and underrepresented students lack the support or education to understand the student handbook in order to follow policies that are provided to ensure a safe and secure school learning environment. Along with various student suspensions, due to our zero tolerance policy, students who are not educated on school policies and lack coping strategies to avoid making poor decisions end up losing quality education and become deprived of membership within the school community and forced to leave. The objective and goal of this project was to connect the school community and recreate a cohesive school environment.

Falcon Youth Development Program project was broken down into three parts:

  1. Startup peer mentoring sessions to support and educate students who receive out of school suspension/in school suspension for insubordination.
  2. Coordinate with Adult Equity Council to plan for a guest speaker to conduct a workshop/breakout sessions for students and/ or staff to learn about social justice and restorative practices in school.
  3. Student led group discussion through after school club on Thursday afternoons that include weekly activities that support and advocate for racial healing and connecting.


The outcomes of the original project shifted. At first, the idea of this programs was proposed to the school counselors only to assist with starting a peer mentoring program but through conversations with the leadership team, it was determined that providing the resources to students in large group setting instead of one on one discussions would have a greater impact. We measured the effectiveness of the program by attendance of students and staff involved over a given period of time.

Furthermore, students participating in a club, after school, allowed them the opportunity to connect with peers and teachers, discuss topics such as oppression, implicit bias, microaggressions as well as discovering their identity increased their sense of belonging.

The overall impact of the project shifted the views of educators while providing deeper connections with students. We now have 6 teachers who are active members and willingly come to connect with the 32 students who attend & identify as being apart of the marginalized population in our school every Thursday to Kulture Lab Club.


The Racial Healing Handbook has the potential to expand within MRHS and can serve as a model for other schools across the state.

Closing Thoughts:

  • Peer mentoring piece was unsuccessful as it was not a transitional effort but more reactionary. After running data, I realized students were receiving demerits for being absent and not attending detention more so than insubordination.
  • Building connections while giving students a safe space to discuss difficult conversations about race, unfair discipline practices, student handbook policies was the key component with Kulture Lab Club. Along with these discussions, I made sure to follow up with guidance and coping strategies to help with students experiencing difficult situations.

The Raritan Rocket Restorative Justice Project (AY 22-23)

Kristen Sankpal, MSW, LSW
Raritan High School, Hazlet Public School District

Goals & Objectives

Traditional ways of handling student discipline through detention and suspension do not appropriately address the complex social, emotional and academic needs of our students. In fact, these practices are often punitive in nature, are not applied equitably among all students, are rarely successful in changing student behavior and often further ostracize students who are already disenfranchised.

Disciplinary data from the 2021-2022 school year, showed that BIPOC students, students in special education and students receiving free and reduced lunch were disproportionately suspended from Raritan High School. This grant project was designed to shed light on this component of inequity that exists in our school and introduce Restorative Justice Practices as one approach to help address this serious concern.

The measurable goals of this grant project were as follows:

  1. Provide training to increase the understanding of Restorative Justice Practices in Education among the target population
  2. Decrease the suspension rates among the student sub-groups who are disproportionately suspended: BIPOC students, students in special education and students who receive free and reduced lunch

Project Description

The Target Audience: RHS administration, HMS administration, Director of Special Services, Supervisor of Special Services, Director of School Counseling, RHS Child Study Team, RHS School Counselors, Teacher Leaders (approximately 30 staff members)

Content of the Program: A training program was provided to the target audience on implicit bias and restorative justice practices over the course of the 2022-2023 school year. The following workshops were provided:

  • Overview of the Raritan Rocket Restorative Justice Project: September 14th, provided by myself
  • Unconscious Bias: October 4th; provided by the NJ State Bar Foundation Introduction to Restorative Justice: October 10th; provided through the grant by Jessica Laus, Co-Chair of the NJ Restorative Justice Network
  • Examining Student Codes of Conduct: October 14th, provided by Dr. Walker, Restorative Justice in Education Grant, Kean University
  • Community Building Circle Training: December 12th-13th; provided through the grant by Jessica Laus, Co-Chair of the NJ Restorative Justice Network
  • Restorative Justice in Education Training: February 17th; provided by myself and Stacy Schiller, Raritan High School

Some members of the target audience read and discussed, “The Little Book on Restorative Justice in Education: Fostering Responsibility Healing and Hope in Schools” by Katherine Evans and Dorothy Vandering, as well as excerpts from other important books and articles relating to implicit bias and restorative practices.

Assessment: Members of the target audience completed surveys to determine if their knowledge and understanding of restorative practices in education improved following participation in the training program. The disciplinary data from the 2022- 2023 school year was compared with the disciplinary data from the 2021-2022 to see if disproportionality in suspensions improved.

Project Cost: $1,200, which included training costs and the purchase of reading materials.


New restorative practices were implemented:

  • Supportive Counseling in lieu of detention was created for students in special education.
  • A Girl’s Circle group was developed for students who were at-risk for school failure. •A monthly Book Club based on restorative practices was created for staff.
  • A Therapy Dog program was developed at the high school.

The research showed:

  • Overall, suspensions dropped by 23.3% (60 students vs. 46 students) from last school year compared to this school year.
  • The recidivism rate among students who were suspended also decreased from 33% last year to 22% this school year.
  • The percentage of suspended students who identified as Mixed Race decreased from 17% to 2%.
  • The percentage of suspended students who received free and reduced lunch decreased from 35% to 22%.

This is a promising start, but there is much more work that needs to be done to improve equity in our disciplinary practices. For example, during the 2022-2023 School Year:

  • Students in Special Education were still disproportionately suspended, as they made up 15% of the student body but comprised 30% of the students who were suspended.
  • Students who are Hispanic/Latino were still disproportionately suspended, as they accounted for 10% of the student body but comprised 19.5% of student suspensions.
  • Students who are Black were still disproportionately suspended, as they made up 2% of the student body but comprised 8.6% of suspensions.
  • White students made up 80% of the student body but accounted for only 69.5% of student suspensions.

Based on survey results:

  • 100% of respondents indicated that their knowledge of restorative practices had improved.
  • 80% of respondents indicated that they had used one or more restorative practices with their students over the course of the school year.
  • 100% of respondents also expressed an openness to continuing to learn more about restorative practices and utilizing them with their students.


The benefits of restorative practices can’t be completely felt after one school year. Moving forward, some ideas to consider or next year (and beyond) include:

  • Expanding training on Restorative Justice in Education to more staff
  • Developing a Restorative Justice Action Team that can partner with our Student Diversity Group and other student organizations
  • Continuing to examine and revise our School Code of Conduct to make it more equitable
  • Streamlining the re-entry process for students when they return to school from suspension
  • Holding more community building activities with staff and students throughout the school year
  • Offering a class for students on Restorative Justice in Education •Creating a peer mediation program for students
  • Allowing PD time for teachers and other staff to collaborate on the best ways to implement restorative practices with their students

So You Want to Talk about Race? Empowering Students to have Honest Dialogues (AY 22-23)

Stacy Schiller
Raritan High School/Hazlet

Goals & Objectives


During the 2021-2022 school year, student and staff members of the RHS Diversity Panel identified wanting to “create a culture where productive discussions with different perspectives can take place”.

Goal #1

To create a self awareness program to empower students to address racial justice issues in their lives, community and/or the world

Examples of student responses to post retreat survey:

“It really motivates me to do more of this kind of work so that I can help make a change.”

“I realized how much I either overlook or don’t realize happens in school.”
“To be an efficient fighter for social justice, I must listen just as much as I should talk.”

“That I’m not alone and that it takes a lot of time and patience for you to understand racism and ‘solve’ it”
“Something that really touched me was how open to REAL conversation everyone, including the teachers, were. We all spoke to each other as if we were equal and all taught each other something new, even if it was small”

“Things like racism [are] something a lot of people only see in movies and books, to hear that it wasn’t just me and my family that have and still go through hate for no real reason was comforting in an odd way.”

“It made me realize a lot that i had never been taught before:”
“ I … feel much more comfortable talking about race after hearing other people talking about race” “Vulnerability is needed for change; learning isn’t limited to sharing; listening is needed as well.”

Goals #2

To provide an opportunity for students participating in this program to share their knowledge and skills with others.

Project Description


16 students signed up for a year-long program to discuss race and racism on individual, cultural and institutional levels. The program was designed to give students multiple opportunities to learn, reflect and then take action. The core learning event was an all day retreat at our township community center. Students used the text This Book is Anti- Racist by Tiffany Jewell throughout the program.

Additional participants: Five additional educators supported the program, including two teachers of color and one other Social Justice Academy participant.


  • Pre-retreat meeting: Who Am I? Reflections and retreat preparation Retreat: 16 students and 6 educators attended a 9 hour workshop.
    • Activities: Land and Labor acknowledgements, mindfulness moments, opportunities for group bonding and individual journaling/reflection throughout the day
    • Topics investigated: Early memories of race, cycle of socialization, institutional racism (using the Racial Wealth and Income Gap Experience activity) and representation in children’s books.
  • Post-retreat project: A 21 day Racial Justice Equity Challenge from December to March.
    • Additional group learning opportunities during this time: After school meetings focused on microaggressions, white supremacy culture, and how to be an ally. We also offered an opportunity to discuss the murder of Tyre Nichols. The group joined together for a late March debrief meeting.
  • T-shirts: Students designed a t-shirt for our program. The front included an image of NJ with hands of different colors and the phrase RHS Racial Justice Program. On the back is a quote from This Book is Anti-Racist, “If you do nothing, everything stays the same.”
  • Culminating retreat: 14 students and 6 educators participated during school hours at the end of April. Our day included reflections and planning for next steps.
  • Final Projects:
    • Elective Course Students are proposing a half year course to focus on social justice
    • Podcast: Tentative Title: “Jabbering for Justice”
      • Format: Student Voices with a guest speaker on a chosen topic
      • Current plans: Episode Zero – a 2 minute introduction/overview
      • Episode 1: Senior students of color sharing their experiences as BIPOC teens. Students hope to continue the project in the fall.

Throughout the year we also provided students with additional opportunities for education around social justice issues, such as attending a showing of Living & Breathing at the Two River Theater, joining our Diversity Panel at Chhange’s annual Colloquium on Brookdale’s Lincroft Campus and registering to participate in this summer’s Torch Leadership Academy at Stockton University.


Students were surveyed at the start of the program and in mid-May. Some results of the post survey include: Post survey:


Students reported increased learning about their own social identities and institutional and cultural racism. Comfort level:

  • 40% of students reported they are more comfortable thinking about the way race connects to their other identities, noticing when they do something that might be considered racist, and speaking up when they hear racist remarks in the hallway at school. Of the other 60%, only one or two students reported a decreased comfort level in any of those categories. Only one student reported lower than a 3 on a 5 point scale in any of those categories.
  • While students of color did not report increased thinking about race, 7 out of 8 white students reported thinking about race more often than they had at the start of the year
  • One third of the students reported increased comfort joining an organization that works toward racial justice. Because this was a self-selecting group, many others already reported feeling comfortable.


Students are using their creativity and their voices on our podcast project and hope to share the results with their communities. In pairing with the Global Communications club, students have the opportunity to educate peers who did not participate in the program prior to the release of the podcast.

Some participants are already applying their learning outside of the project. One sophomore was concerned about the racial implications of the content in one of her classes. After a discussion with me she approached her teacher and had a positive conversation. She later reported she wanted to continue to use her voice whenever she could.

If the course the students propose is approved, their input and voices can give future students the opportunity to learn about historical and contemporary racism and activism in even more depth than this project permitted. What else is needed?

  • Additional space to educate students formally or informally about race and other issues of social justice
  • Support for our students of color and their allies to advocate for their needs, share their experiences, and take action on issues about which they are passionate

Culturally Responsive School (AY 22-23)

Pallavi B. Shetty
Colonia High School/Woodbridge Township School District

Goals & Objectives

The overarching goal of this project was to cultivate community by further developing previous work of our DEI team.

Awareness Goals

  • Creating self-awareness programs for students, adults, community
  • Developing common and appropriate language around race and racism

Action Goals

  • Promoting racial inequity conversations
  • Integrating anti-racism activities

Activism Goals

  • Identifying and working to eliminate racist policies & practices
  • Requiring anti-racist training for staff

Short Term Objectives to Help Reach Goals

  • Develop culturally responsive instructional practices with the School Equity Team
  • Analyze data to make connections between underserved populations and the need for culturally responsive teaching
  • Create safe spaces for students to discuss cultural issues within the school community and curriculum
  • Broaden knowledge through book club style readings on various topics within DEI
  • Build upon previous student led initiatives within the realm of school culture

Project Description

Target Population

School Equity Team (SET): Made up of 8-10 staff members from various departments

Student Diversity Council: 20-30 student members of an afterschool club

Diversity Council: includes the SET, Student DEI team, parents, community members

Colonia High School: 1300 students, 170 staff members

Needs of the Target Population

While the School Diversity Council was put into place during the 2021-22 school year, the objectives of the group needed strengthening and direction. The intention was to focus the direction of the SET and Student Diversity Council so that PLCs could be created, and a broader community of staff and students could be reached.

Content of Program

  • SET: Analyze NJSLA outcomes (district and school wide outcomes from last 5 years) on the basis of gender, race, and socioeconomics. Present data to faculty and discuss possible trends, reasons, changes needed in curriculum. Intended to help faculty become more aware of the role of culture and race within the school climate
  • SET: Study and discuss “Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain” by Zaretta Hammondto develop best practices within each content area. The intention is to further develop and model these in department-based PLCs
  • Student Diversity Council: Review and discuss excerpts of “American Like Me” by America Ferrerato delve into vocabulary, promote conversations and develop more culturally appropriate activities
  • Student Diversity Council: Promote the Anti-Racism Pledge throughout October’s Week of Respect bringing broader awareness to the student & staff population
  • Student Diversity Council: Conduct a “Day of Dialogue” assembly, engaging in Courageous Conversations with a broad group including other district high schools and feeder middle schools


Goals were measured through student & staff reflection at beginning and end of the school year. In addition, there was much higher participation and engagement in student DEI clubs, events & in some faculty meetings, department PLCs

  • School Equity Team and Student Diversity council had much more focus and direction and felt like they made more of an impact.
  • Staff was introduced to and took part in examples of best practices in culturally responsive teaching
  • Staff examined curriculum & testing scores through the lens of equity
  • Anti-racism pledge and Courageous Conversations reached a broader audience

Overall Impact

  • Stakeholders gained a deeper knowledge of the impact of bias on education
  • Stakeholders more willing and comfortable with having conversations and discussing topics such as race, bias and culture
  • Much more cultural awareness and celebration of cultures across the curriculum


This work is continuous and evolving.

The School Equity Team is already planning how to improve upon this work and further broaden the scope for the next school year.

Best practices and knowledge is being shared with other district high schools and middle schools.

Woodbridge Township School District has a strong DEI plan across the district; our SET is looking to personalize for Colonia High School’s community to make the most impact on our stakeholders.

Eagles for Awareness, Beyond the Blind Spots (2022-2023)

Doreen Sisolak
Eatontown Township

Goals & Objectives

Goals/Outcomes of the project

Staff and students will be able to discuss and identify vocabulary and the meaning of social justice: racial and cultural awareness and combating biases. Staff and students will actively participate in social justice discussions and activities. Increase accountability for students and staff to ensure social and justice awareness is implemented. Address issues of racism that affect teacher practices and student opportunity.

The follow-up goal would be to implement the project in 2023-2024 to kindergarten in September and preschool in January.

Project Description

The Eagles for Awareness Project provided staff and students the opportunity to engage in various activities.

Eagles for Awareness; Beyond the Blind Spots focused on bringing cultural and racial awareness to students and staff.

The administration team and school staff supported the project in its’ entirety. Staff collaborated and discuss literature and articles based on social justice.

First grade students explored literature written by authors from around the world whom are of different ethnic backgrounds and social classes, embracing racial and cultural awareness.

First grade students explored literature which portrayed characters from different ethnic backgrounds and social classes, embracing racial and cultural awareness

Students created projects and/or played games that reflect on different ethnic backgrounds and social classes.

Items Purchased

  • 44 Books – Students & Staff Literature
  • Arts and Craft Supplies
  • 17 Games


The Eagles for Awareness, Beyond the Blind Spots Project, has been well received by the target participants.

Based on the survey results, staff enhanced their awareness and capacity regarding implicit bias.

Staff were able to feel more comfortable teaching about race and ethnicity. Students are more aware of and understand different races and ethnicities. Students are aware of different ethnicity.

Implementing the project led to professional time being allotted to educate staff further.


Based on the dialogue and feedback from staff the topics and “hard conversations” will continue. The implemented lessons will be in future lesson plans. The literature purchased for staff discussion will be provided to future educators, supporting social justice.

Making Roxbury Gaels Equitable Through Restorative Practices (AY 22-23)

Alexis Somers M.A., BCBA
Roxbury School District

Goals & Objectives

Based on baseline line data from the 21-22 school year, restorative practices will be utilized when an incident occurs to decrease repeat offenses and will be used on a regular basis.

Train staff in buildings to use and implement TeachTown to increase uniformity and increase restorative practice approaches.


“In working with a student who was always talked over his friends and not listened to others, the student would often escalate to a more serious problem behavior, I used the TeachTown set of activities after multiple incidents. The student was able to gain a perspective of his actions and how they effected others. The student was unaware that not listening to his friends or giving them a chance to speak was the reason that caused conflict. When using a role playing activity, the student gained a further understanding, as it gave him the opportunity to put himself in someone else’s shoes. Although the impulsive behavior is still something we are working on, we have seen a decrease in this particular incident.” – Nicole Acevedo, Principal, Kennedy Elementary School

“I enjoyed the way that the platform allowed the students to engage in meaningful reflection of their behavior with age- appropriate resources..”– Brian Hamer, Principal, Franklin School

Project Description

In our district, our handbooks clearly outline specific consequences for the first few offenses during a school year. We lack the uniformity in our restorative practices to build skills outside of the I & RS practices that are individualized and not built on our own biases. We continue to need a quick toolbox for principals, teachers, and counselors to guide us in our practices to combat unconscious biases and implicit bias when faced with a situation that needs immediate attention. The goal for the project was to have a paradigm shift in our elementary school (target 2 schools for this school year) of differing SES status to use TeachTown as an equalizing resource of social skill acquisition to combat implicit bias and increasing severity when the child doesn’t have the skills to fix the problem behavior.

Implementation: Principals were given a tutorial of TeachTown and a skill sheet. Physical books were also purchased for references. Staff were trained and guided on how to use the program throughout the year.

Check-ins were done periodically and in a schedule thinning procedure throughout the year. Principals were then asked to use the program for any student that had been in their office at least three times and . discussion of the students was done in October and the end of November.

Teachers were also given the information if their class or student needed extra guidance as a group. Teachers were able to use the videos to guide a group of students through the restorative skill building and then were monitored during the independent time by observation to assess if the skill was acquired.


Based on Likert scale (1-6) responses from users:

Staff rated the helpfulness of TeachTown as 5.5.

Staff unanimously rated TeachTown a 6.0 as a tool that could be used universally across all races and elementary ages.

Staff rated this tool as a 5.0 as more useful as a restorative practice than what had been previously used.

Staff felt that the number of offenses for multiple offense students decreased with a rating of 4.5.

Staff unanimously indicated that they would like to continue to use TeachTown for their repeat offenders for restorative justice.


Roxbury School District’s elementary schools have had a paradigm shift and that begins from the administration level. Our administration has taken the initiative from this Social Justice Academy to look at our restorative justice practices at a closer level and use TeachTown as a tool to aid in decreasing implicit bias. When administrators are presented with a repeat offender to the code of conduct, it can be implied from this project that when given a steadfast, well researched tool such as TeachTown, administrators will use the tool to fidelity and student’s repeat behavior can be extinguished or lessened. In the coming years, Roxbury would like to continue to use TeachTown with administrators and also turnkey train our teachers and case managers to use this for lesser problem behavior when the student is lacking skills. Another implication can be when a group of students or a classroom shows trends in behavior, TeachTown can and will be used to teach the group about perspective taking, give them conflict resolution skills or other skills offered within the program, to extinguish some of the underlying larger issues that present themselves during a school year.

Do I See Me? I Matter: Racial Identity in Preschool (AY 22-23)

Gwen Tiller
School/School District: Passaic, NJ School 7

Goals & Objectives

To Increase staff awareness of social justice and racial identity development

To meet 7 times for an optional book club to discuss Don’t Look Away: Embracing Anti-bias Classrooms by Iheoma U. Irauka PhD

To increase student understanding of personal characteristics

Project Description

The project will be two-pronged. Starting with staff understanding and awareness of Racial Identity Development. This occurred during Faculty Meetings (preschool and kindergarten staff) and Grade Level Meetings (Preschool staff) using short videos/activities that prompted discussion. Passaic Grant School 7 consists of 15 preschool classrooms and 5 kindergarten classrooms. The population is comprised of a large Hispanic population. After 20 years of teaching preschool, it was not common for students to see themselves within picture books (especially those provided by the school district).

There was a voluntary book club using Don’t Look Away: Embracing Anti-bias Classrooms by Iheoma Iruka PhD. Book club was slated to meet once a month.

Black, Indigenous, and People of Color representation is very limited within books. I worked with a former librarian in order to curate a diversity rich library for the school staff to use within their individual classrooms. Creating one larger library focused on BIPOC joy, etc. will create a more positive awareness of racial identity development. These books will have BIPOC characters with speaking roles rather than only illustrations.


Staff completed a pre and post questionnaire. Overall, the comfort level increased with:

  • The term and understanding of self-identity
  • Introducing racial identity with your students
  • Discussing racial identity with peers
  • Discussing racial identity with students

The book club was not held this year due to issues with approval with the school board. (I learned a lot with this process.) The books were ordered and will happen next school year. There was another book club which started in October this year for the preschool staff.

Utilizing the Child Observation Record from High Scope, the students’ scores for FF – Social Studies Knowledge of self and others – the baseline score for the entire preschool population was an average of 2.31. After a year of conversations, teacher focus, and utilizing the lending library, the average score increased to 3.73.

An unexpected outcome was getting a Member Spotlight in the Official Education Association of Passaic Union’s Newsletter. This spotlight went out to all the Passaic District Union members. I had a few people reach out to inquire about the project and curated book list.


A student said, “She looks like me!” as she held up I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley illustrated by E. B. Lewis. The girl in the illustration has dark skin tone and braids in her hair. The student did in fact resemble the girl on the book cover. This was the most memorable moment for me from this project.

Staff look forward to participating in the Book Club next school year. Discussion this year regarding racial identity was at times challenging but rewarding.

The added sharing of this project outside my school has me hoping that others will work on applying the concept of racial identity within their classrooms.

Restoring Equity Across Communities at Highlands (R.E.A.C.H) (AY 22-23)

Jessica Verdicchio-Sage, DSW, LCSW
Northern Highlands Regional High School (NHRHS)

Rationale & Goal

This project was created as a result of participating in the Social Justice Academy at Monmouth University in July 2023.

Two years ago, NHRHS created the Wellness Center in an effort to meet the increased demand for mental health education, programming, and services at school. Soon after its inception, the COVID-19 pandemic illuminated additional vulnerable populations in our school community. Our student data from the 21-22 school year showed an increase in student absenteeism, substance use infractions, and peer conflict. While it’s difficult to ascertain a singular root cause, we do recognize that our students are struggling and we need to respond.

There is a natural alignment between Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Restorative Practices. Restorative Justice invites all impacted by harm/conflict to share their perspectives on the causes of the event as well as its impact and effects. It further allows space for empathy, perspective-taking, healing, growth, and accountability for one’s actions.

The intention and goal of this project is to research, explore, and ultimately implement a Restorative Justice (RJ) Program at NHRHS.


  • Pitch Project R.E.A.C.H to appropriate District Stakeholders including the Principal, Director of Curriculum, Vice Principal of Student Affairs, Staff, and DEI Committee
  • Research & gather resources to support the work including: articles, websites, student/faculty handbooks, student data on substance use, discipline referrals, and attendance
  • Review current policies/handbook to determine key areas where restorative practices are needed
  • Assemble a team of stakeholders including parents, students, DEI committee/staff, and District Administrators
  • Research and provide training to the Restorative Justice Team
  • Arrange for a site visit to Montclair High School (or similar) to view Restorative Justice in action
  • Assemble a small group of students to pilot a restorative circle
  • Revise the student and staff handbooks to reflect a Restorative Justice philosophy and lens.

Project Description

The target population is our school community which includes 1,298 students and their families descending from the towns of Allendale, Saddle River, Upper Saddle River, and Ho-Ho-Kus in Bergen County, NJ. This project also targets the nearly 150 staff members in our school.

Restorative Justice is an indigenous philosophy that emphasizes the building of relationships. When used as a school climate and culture shift, this includes intentional community building with staff, students, and families; examining and transforming pedagogical practices; and engaging in conversations about racism and our educational system.

We assessed the needs of our target population by reviewing relevant discipline, HIB, and attendance data from the last two school years. Additionally, our staff, students, and caregivers participated in a formal survey, NJSCI, which provided valuable

insights on school climate strengths and needs. Finally, we gathered anecdotal data to add further color and context to the student climate survey responses.

Project R.E.A.C.H was broken down into three key components:

  1. Assemble a Restorative Justice (RJ) Team and provide training.
    • At the welcome back faculty meeting in September 2022, Project R.E.A.C.H was shared with our staff, and interested faculty members were invited to learn about RJ in subsequent PD day offerings. Interested staff members were encouraged to join the RJ team and receive additional training.
    • On March 30, 2023, the RJ school team attended an “Introduction to Restorative Justice” workshop and training session hosted by Dwanna Nicole, of the Restorative Justice Partnership. Twenty administrators, teachers, and counselors learned about the philosophy behind RJ, how it can be used in school communities to improve school climate and culture, and common mistakes to avoid during the implementation process.
    • A follow-up meeting is planned for June 2023 to create a future vision for RJ implementation and practices.
  2. Arrange a site visit and conduct the first restorative circle.
    • In April 2023, several representatives from the RJ team met with staff from Montclair Kimberley Academy (MKA) to learn how the school launched its restorative justice program. The MKA team shared the lessons they learned along the way, including the importance of amplifying the voices of underrepresented students within the school community. The groups shared resources, ideas, and best practices for conducting restorative conversations.
    • In May 2023, a restorative circle was piloted using the students from the CJCEE student DEI group. This circle was designed to build community and create a sense of belonging through sharing stories and active listening.
  3. Revise the Student & Staff handbook to reflect an RJ lens
    • In August 2022, initial steps were taken to revise the consequences for substance use infractions to include additional restorative practices, such as counseling and psycho-education.
    • In the Summer of 2023, student and faculty handbooks will be revised to include our RJ philosophy and practices as well as more inclusive language. Key stakeholders will be invited to contribute to the revision of the handbooks.

The BOE, Administration, and school staff supported this project in its entirety. In particular, our Principal, Director of Curriculum & Instruction, and VP of Student Affairs embraced and fully encouraged our staff to participate in these crucial conversations and training sessions. This allowed our staff members to be present and engage in a meaningful way.

Cost of the Project: The total cost of the project was $1700. $1500 was used to host Dwanna Nicole, our Intro to Restorative Justice trainer. This allowed 20 members of our staff to collectively learn and understand the impact that RJ practices can have within a school community. This training was essential to creating buy-in with members of our staff. The remainder of the funds will be used toward funding a luncheon for our RJ team to celebrate our successes this school year.


During the course of the school year, nearly every goal from the original proposal was met. As the Supervisor of Wellness & Equity at our school, one of my primary responsibilities is to oversee our DEI & Equity work. Therefore, I was able to conceptualize, plan, and implement this work seamlessly.

Gaining buy-in from key stakeholders was a pivotal component of this project. From the initial conversations with our BOE and administrators to sharing the philosophy of Restorative Justice with our staff during faculty meetings and Professional Development days, this time was essential to creating meaningful opportunities for our staff to listen, learn, and engage in conversations about the needs of our school community. Further, the timing of the NJSCI climate survey, allowed the team time to review the initial data prior to the formal RJ team training. This led to a more fruitful and lively discussion on how RJ could be implemented in the near future.

The overall impact of this project is far-reaching. From the moment our BOE and administrators supported my attendance at the Summer 2022 Social Justice Academy, the door was opened to explore ways we could create a safer, more inclusive school setting by acknowledging and dismantling inequitable practices.


Project R.E.A.C.H has the potential to expand within our school community. However, in order to do so, we must invite underrepresented students and families to participate in the discussions and provide input into our plan. While the NJSCI survey provided all stakeholders with an opportunity to share their perspectives, the implementation of a plan impacting school climate and inclusivity must take further measures.

Moving forward, it will be important to encourage students to join our DEI/RJ team. Our students are essential to creating a welcoming, kind, and inclusive community and as a staff, it is our role to create opportunities for community building well as spaces to heal and repair harm. The hope is that by working to create this environment all students, staff, and caregivers feel seen, heard, and valued as members of our Northern Highlands Community.

Huskies for Social Justice Book Club 2022-2023

Emily C. Zupkus, School Psychologist
Matawan Regional High School, Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District

Goals & Objectives

Long-Term Goal: increase staff exposure to racial inequities that are facing our student body

Objective: enlist at least 3 school counseling staff, 5 teachers, and 1 administrator to participate in Huskies for Social Justice Book Club

Long-Term Goal: Identify racial injustices within our school & develop a plan for change

Objective: Staff will draw parallels from the Unequal City book to our current school culture & policy through group discussion

Project Description

School staff will read Unequal City: Race, Schools, and Perceptions of Injustice by Dr. Carla Shedd, participate in a book club utilizing the National Association of School Psychologist’s discussion question guide, and lastly, discuss ideas for change for Matawan Regional High School.

The project included three Book Club sessions.

During Session One, participants were asked to complete an assessment on how comfortable they felt discussing different topics related to diversity. The book and discussion questions were introduced.

During Session Two, all participants had finished reading the book, and time was spent drawing parallels between the book and our school community.

During Session Three, a smaller group of participants met to review the parallels between our school and the inequities from the book to come up with an action plan to remediate some of the identified issues.


The Huskies for Social Justice Book Club met on three different occasions this school year. There were 18 participants in all, including nine teachers, five administrators, three child study team members, and one school psychologist intern.

One theme that emerged from the text and our sessions was a lack of minority student voice within our school. To ensure that we are hearing the experiences of all students to make informed decisions in the best interest of all students two action items were developed.

Action Item 1: collaborate with Dean of Students to share the results of the Book Club and develop ways to make conferences with students an opportunity for student’s voices to be heard on what their experience is like being a student in our school, as well as an opportunity to engage in restorative practices as opposed to discipline. Action Item 2: Create a Freshman Academy, titled Project 9.0, which will be implemented next school year. The aim of the academy is to pair freshmen with peer mentors that are representative of the demographics of our student body to make sure all voices are being heard. Student Peer mentors would be students who have shown growth or improvement during their high school career, would grow from a leadership role, have overcome obstacles in life, or who want a voice and would benefit from an opportunity to help strengthen our school community.


Creating more opportunities for all student voices to be heard turned out to be the main focus of this project. Through interactions with students within our newly created position of Dean of Students, as well as the implementation of Project 9.0, we will keep a pulse on the student needs of the community we serve, keep student needs at the forefront of our school decision making, and make our school a more equitable place.