This degree makes us agents of change, the catalyst for a just and thriving society.
More than 700 new educators, researchers and leaders were honored during the University of Washington College of Education’s graduation ceremonies on June 11, with speakers highlighting the Class of 2019’s power to advance educational justice.
Keynote speaker Erin Okuno, executive director of the Southeast Seattle Education Coalition, noted that at the heart of racial justice work are relationships and connecting with people. She shared a Masai greeting in which people ask “And how are the children?” with the hoped-for reply being “All the children are well.”
“Not some, not just their friends or relatives, but all of the children,” Okuno said. “Imagine what our schools could look and feel like if we took care of all of our children, especially our black and brown children, immigrants and refugees, our LGBTQ students, disabled and those who feel othered and outside the system. We can do this and we must do this if we are to work for racial justice.”
Undergraduate student speaker Eya Lazaro, an Early Childhood and Family Studies major, shared how educators made a difference in her life, amidst the adversity of growing up in a mixed-status immigrant family facing food insecurity and unstable housing.
“My chances of pursuing higher education were slim, but these educators made sure that my family and I were supported,” Lazaro said. “Thanks to them, I crossed the whole Pacific Ocean, and I stand before you today as the first person in my family to not only come to the U.S., but also to earn a degree and become an educator myself.”
“This degree means so much more than just a gateway to a paycheck. It allows us to have a deep rooted impact on the lives of children, students, families, teachers, school administrators and entire communities,” Lazaro said. “This degree makes us agents of change, the catalyst for a just and thriving society.”
Graduate commencement speaker Yazmin Aguilar Carretero, who completed her master’s degree in Leadership in Higher Education, spoke about immigrating to the U.S. as a child and how education provided the knowledge and power to positively change the country where she grew up.
“As future educators it’s important to understand that educational justice is a moral imperative to our society in which education is a crucial determinant of life chances,” she said. “Educational justice goes beyond ensuring the right for our children to an equitable public education. Educational justice is giving all students a sense of self that will give them the power and knowledge to speak the ugly truths about our social and political systems without being afraid.”
Dean Mia Tuan said that while too many young people have lacked access to the rigorous and meaningful learning experiences needed to realize their potential, seeing students partner with schools and communities during their studies at the UW provides hope for the future.
“Being in education, whatever your particular role happens to be, carries a tremendous responsibility,” Tuan said. “You have a responsibility to every child, especially those who are most vulnerable. I’ve seen you embrace this responsibility to work for educational justice, and I’m inspired by your passion to create a world where every child is hopeful and knows they are valued.”
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Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications