Andrew Vega is a first-generation American, the son of Mexican immigrants. He identifies as gay. Hes also the principal of Bates Elementary School in Boston.
Like so many of us, he had a lot on the line during this election. And like so many of us, hes still processing the results and grappling with the implications for himself, for his family, for the people he loves.
As a school principal, Vega also has an entire school of children and their families looking to him for guidance in the wake of the election.
They were looking for the way forward. So he wrote them a letter.
“Good morning, Bates Community.
Yesterday our country and the Commonwealth voiced their collective opinion in the democratic process as they selected our future leaders and made decisions on important ballot measures.
The Phineas Bates Elementary School has 7 racial demographics, 15 home languages, and 31 national origins. We have gender non-conforming students and students whose interests align with our societys gender norms. We have students who open gifts on Christmas, who read from the Torah, and who proudly wear headscarves daily as part of their Muslim faith. We also have students who practice another religion that we celebrate with them or no religion at all. One quarter of our students have disabilities and are educated in the same classrooms as their peers. Some of our students are descendants of the Pilgrims and some moved to the United States within the last year. Our students come from families with different political beliefs and may have different feelings around the outcomes of this Election.
Our school is a snapshot of this country in a building of 300 students. We are faced with the task of creating an inclusive environment that celebrates and honors all of these differences, and we strive to get better at that every single day.
We know that students will have different reactions to the outcome of yesterdays Election. We honor our democratic values and traditions and we will carry on with our mission to educate, support and prepare our students for success. I am writing to assure you that the Bates remains a safe and supportive environment for all of them. If you have concerns about your child and how he/she/they may be processing the Election and would like some extra support at school, please let us know. You can also read this message from Superintendent Chang to learn more about resources to support students.
As always, I am so deeply humbled and honored to work with children every day. They consistently remind me of my own values and give me the strength it takes to build a school where they all feel loved. And I assure youthey are all loved.
Yours in the Culture of We,
The Bates School community in Boston is an exceptionally diverse place.
Vega says that 50-70% of the kids are students of color, and around 30% are white. They span various socioeconomic backgrounds and hold different political allegiances, experiences, and interests.
Some of the parents of his students were struggling, much as he was, to come to terms with the election results. Others celebrated Trump. But for Vega, there was no room for exclusion, anger, or blame. There was only room for compassion and a desire to chart a path forward.
For Vega, the path forward starts with making sure his students feel safe.
He said, “At this time that is so divisive, we need to reinforce our message that we are inclusive. And you should not be ashamed of anything that you are.”
And hes looking to the future too. “We can create a space to work through this together using the same strategies and language that we always do,” he said. “But also to continue to do the daily work that we need to do, preparing our students for the time when they can cast the ballot.”
Children are literally our future, which is why Vega’s words are so important.
As parents, aunts, uncles, sisters, and brothers, we have to build our kids up, give them the tools they need to protect people around them, and help them understand what’s happening.
For Vega, this starts with reminding them that differences are OK. It starts with teaching them how to support and protect each other. Because differences make us stronger, and were stronger together.