SMUHSD’s final Unity in the Community meeting


Graphic by Lizzy Wan

The Black Parents Association held its final meeting over Zoom where they discussed updates to the district’s bulletin, commented on a new Ethnic Studies course and hosted recent graduates to give updates on their college life.

Lizzy Wan, Diversity Coordinator

On April 27, the Black Parents Association (BPA) held its final Unity in the Community town hall of the year on Zoom. Board president of the BPA, Medina McKinney, hosted the meeting along with Terrilyn Wong, a 2021 Capuchino High School graduate. The meeting’s agenda consisted of district updates and guest speakers sharing about their life during and after college. 

During the meeting, the BPA welcomed Doug Leighton as a new board member. Before joining the board, Leighton supported the BPA through donations.

“Whether it’s working with the BPA or whether it’s in the work I do with credit unions and community banks, I believe I am a champion for making people feel like they belong within that environment and within that team,” Leighton said during the meeting. 

Don Scatena, director of student services at San Mateo Unified High School District and Title IX complaint officer for student complaints, shared revisions to the district’s bulletin. 

One of the main focuses of the revision was defining the fine line between holding students accountable while also applying restorative practices.   

“We wanted to make sure that there were some common practices across all the different schools in the district,” Scatena said. “There’s not a lot of discretion in being able to apply a rule in one area and not another.”

The main goal of the bulletin revisions is ensuring students feel safe and heard at school. Additionally, the SMUHSD Board hoped to clarify the process for reporting and ability to do it anonymously.

The meeting also covered Introduction to Ethnic Studies, a one-semester course that California made a graduation requirement in 2019. The San Mateo Unified High School District (SMUHSD) requires all freshmen to take the course.

“[A] difference is students are really excited to come to ethnic studies, they are excited to be there, to learn,” Candace Thomas, an ethnic studies teacher at Hillsdale High School, said during the meeting.

This year, SMUHSD introduced the Advancing Ethnic Studies course — a year-long elective available for seniors and juniors — at select campuses. Burlingame has yet to offer this course, but Mills High School senior, Aaliyah Stuart, was able to take the class.

“Advancing Ethnic Studies has given me the opportunity to change the way I think about things and has deepened my understanding of certain topics,” Stuart said during the meeting. 

The meeting also welcomed two former SMUHSD students to talk about their college experience, and how they have gotten to where they are now. The students were chosen to give advice about during and after college.  

As a freshman at the University of California, Davis, Wong spoke about the transition from an online senior year to in-person college, whilst living on her own for the first time. 

“Something that really helped me was the reassurance that other students might not necessarily be in the same boat as you, but will have that general feeling of being more independent or figuring out what they want to do or where they are at,” Wong said at the meeting.

Wong also noted the opportunities she received before starting college that allowed her to get more involved on campus. Currently, Wong is an intern at the on-campus arboretum where she works on her gardening skills. Wong, who hopes to have a career in landscaping architecture and urban planning, found it to be a valuable experience.

Leroy Wilburforce, a member of Burlingame’s class of 2013, spoke to his decision to attend community college as the first step to navigating his life after high school.

“Coming from a single-parent home, and as a first-generation college student, there wasn’t any path or any kind of example to kind of look at and model myself after,” Wilburforce said during the meeting. “There was a lot of finding myself.”

Specifically, he found that meeting with a counselor for guidance was extremely helpful to discovering academic success.

From there, Wilburforce transferred to Santa Clara University as a philosophy major. Since graduating, Wilburforce has worked at Apple as an engineering project manager. 

Next year, Black Parents Association plans to continue to hold Unity in the Community meetings where they will continue to discuss the happenings across the district.