Michigan State University criminal justice junior, and MSU College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) scholar, Esbeydy Villegas was recently invited to participate in a panel discussion on “Racial Justice in Education” at the 2016 National Education Association’s Joint Conference on Concerns of Minorities and Women in Washington, D.C.
“I was very excited to have been chosen to serve on this panel,” Villegas said. “I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to speak on behalf of the many migrant students like myself and to have the chance to discuss my personal experience with racial justice in education.”
Institutional racism is systemic, but it is up close and personal when it touches every aspect of a student’s life – where they go to school and how they are treated when they get there, how well their school is funded, their access to advanced courses and a rich curriculum, how harshly they are disciplined and the expectations educators have of them.
Villegas was one of five student panel members from across the country who participated in a facilitated discussion on racial justice in education. Panel members were asked to speak from their personal experience advocating for racial justice in education. A variety of issues were covered during the discussion including: how some students are punished more severely in schools; have been suspended or expelled more often than others; are blocked from opportunities because of their race or ethnicity; are fearful because their immigration status; and who face bullying and harassment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“As a member of the panel, I talked about my experience as a migrant student and the racism I encountered from other students in my school,” Villegas said. “I also talked about educators I encountered who were not helpful, that I thought would be, and about one educator who was extremely helpful and what she did to help me. I am proud of what I did, and what I still do, working in the fields along with my parents, being a migrant student and because I am breaking the mold and breaking the sculpture that people want to see me as, I am where I am.”
Villegas said she hopes that audience members at the panel discussion learned that every student has their own unique struggle and that no student should be discouraged or underestimated because of who they are or what their family does for a living.
The entire panel discussion can be viewed online.