It was November of 2018, Izzy Seidman’s sophomore year, when she was approached by a fellow student at school and told, “Jews are not allowed here." The students in her Advanced English class proceeded to laugh at the out-of-pocket comment.
Luckily, the offense was resolved the following day with the help of the assistant principal, Beth Antoine, and a school counselor.
“I saw an opportunity to make things right,” Seidman said.
Seidman’s first step to move her school’s ethnic education forward was in creating a club to educate students about Judaism.
With the help of Antoine, the group was set in motion. It was deemed, “Shalom Y’all."
“Since there are so few Jewish students, we expanded our mission and programming to teach and celebrate all world religions,” Seidman said.
She added that while this provided a safe space, it did not provide a platform to affect policy change.
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Only a few weeks after Seidman’s encounter, a student wore blackface at their school, projecting them into the news.
“I and several others felt the situation could have been handled better, so I reached out to Mrs. Antoine again,” Seidman said.
When asked if she felt nervous to take on such a feat, Seidman declined.
“This is what I wanted, and this was my vision,” she said.
Seidman then spent the remainder of the spring semester, into the summer of 2019, researching what other school districts had to offer. She took note of their events, programs and policies. This eventually culminated in the Diversity Council.
With the Council’s self-proclaimed mission statement, it reads: “The AHS Diversity Council seeks to create an inclusive and safe environment for all students regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin and all other marginalized identities, denouncing all forms of hatred and bigotry, amplifying students’ voices regarding the inequities they face, educating Auburn High School about implicit biases and inequities in the school environment and supporting activities to promote school-wide awareness.”
The Auburn High School Diversity Council sees its role as a voice: for those who feel marginalized and for resolving any existing issues within the system. They hope to not only educate and inform students, but also the teachers who will be interacting with those students.
“The ultimate goal, however, is to create an environment where such councils, activities, [and] workshops are no longer needed,” Seidman said. “It’s bold but definitely possible.”
At its inception, the Council began a 5-year plan. This includes “becoming a certified ADL No Place for Hate school, establishing a peer leadership program, hiring a diversity coordinator and creating Diversity Councils at all Auburn City Schools’ campuses."
Newly elected officers include Co-Presidents Clara Ragan and Ryan Tice, PR Director Charles Bradley and Co-Secretaries Ellie Shumate and Mia Moradi. When the 5 years come to a close, leaders of the Council may deem it necessary to create a new one.
“I am confident that I am leaving the council in good hands,” Seidman said. “We have great leaders coming up.”
In August of 2019, the Council first met. Nine people were in attendance: two administrators, four teachers, and three students, including Seidman. Now, there are 18 members, including three teachers and 15 students.
“Half of the council is graduating this year, so I am hoping new students come aboard,” Seidman said.
However, Seidman said she has strong faith for the future of the Council.
“I envision us as being a place where we are more student-focused on issues that affect our peers, and the district takes on the role of hiring a diversity coordinator to track incidents and bring trainings [and] continuing education to our faculty [and] staff,” Seidman said.
The Council plans to hold a new-member interest meeting later this month, in addition to their t-shirt fundraiser, which closes out the school year.
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