In our Middle School Network meeting on Nov, 3rd, 2021, we focused on an often-overlooked part of the equity landscape in Cambridge: access to after school for young people with disabilities and their families. Maya Gonzalez, retired educator, grandmother, Equity Fellow, and longtime Cambridge caregiver to her granddaughter Annalise (see pictures above!) talked to us about her experience trying to navigate the few options available in Cambridge, and how she has ended up leading an organizing effort to bring the call for equity (which is also mandated in several state/federal laws) to Cambridge's institutions and leaders.
Since everyone comes to the conversation from different places, we used a few media pieces as 'sparks' for the conversation and discussed them in connection groups:
Inclusion is belonging, not a program:
Watch the recording here of Maya telling her own story and detailing her own journey to this place. She also covered where we are as a city (Cambridge) and what she wants OST providers to know about this issue, how it affects their families and how it affect you. The meeting slides also have some detailed bullet points on where we are now, and where we want to go.
In the end, Maya asked us as a network to help move the work forward by completing and spreading her Needs Assessment survey for folks working in after school programs in Cambridge. They (Maya and SEPAC, the Special Education Parent Advisory Council) will be doing a similar assessment with families, but for now the important move is to know what is happening on the ground. How prepared do you feel to have disabled youth in your programs? What would change that? What kind of PD do you already receive? What communication do you have from schools about IEP plans, etc.? What keeps families from registering when they have children with disabilities?
Want to be involved in next steps? Maya is hoping to form an After School Equity "workign group" that includes stakeholders from families, students, OST program staff and city and school department reps. For more info, email Annie (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Maya (email@example.com ).
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.