Recently, Georgetown Day School (GDS) held conversations about socioeconomic status, where students discussed the way social class affects life both inside and outside of school. Ultimately, many came to the conclusion that finances play a role in many facets of GDS culture such as tuition, athletics, prom, trips, and lunch.
This past year, teachers Juan Vidal and Amanda Deringer created a new affinity group called Students for Socioeconomic Awareness (SSEA), hoping to prompt important conversations about social class at GDS. “We wanted to provide students with a healthy space to talk about socioeconomic status,” Deringer said. The teachers stressed that SSEA is an inclusive group, one where members can feel comfortable sharing their own experiences. Nonetheless, as Vidal explained, these issues are both prevalent and difficult: “It’s a lot from sports, lunch, walking down the halls, and seeing what students have and what they don’t have.”
Although the SSEA may not have definitive goals, its underlying objective is to spread awareness of the consequences of socioeconomic disparities in the GDS community. “I think [students] are aware” Vidal commented. “It’s whether [students] want to talk about it. It’s seen as taboo.”
While social class is not yet a topic that is widely discussed at GDS, the Youth-led Participatory Action Research (YPAR) group has also worked extensively to research and publicise the issue. YPAR has been a class at GDS for the past two years, and its goal is to conduct research on social justice issues at GDS and ultimately to find solutions that benefit the school.
This year, YPAR chose socioeconomic status as its field of interest, focusing specifically on sports and athletic participation. Sophomore Vidya Bharghava related the group’s findings and explained that “students from lower [class] backgrounds are unfairly burdened by the cost of sports equipment.” She added, “[YPAR’s] main concern is that students on financial aid will walk through the school but their financial aid won’t reach all aspects of GDS life.” This year, the group was able to create an equity fund for the athletic endeavors of students on financial aid. Even though the cost of sports equipment is a small element of the larger issue of socioeconomic status at GDS, YPAR was able to make a material contribution to the prospect of equal access.
Although these two groups are beginning to make a difference, their work is only the beginning of a long road towards change at GDS.
By Abby Brickman’20