LPS Equity Cadre focuses on future during annual State of Diversity talk

How can Lincoln Public Schools best serve students of all backgrounds and be a model of inclusive excellence?
LPS Equity Cadre members are presenting answers to that question during a series of State of Diversity events across the city this spring.
School and community members gathered at Steve Joel District Learning Center in early May to listen to the second of five planned addresses. Cadre members Amna, Gabriel, Jesus and Lillian delivered a 20-minute presentation to in-person and online audiences. They then joined attendees in the district office boardroom for roundtable discussions about diversity topics.
Jesus and Lillian both gave wide smiles as they talked about the event. Jesus, a senior at Northeast High School, has been an Equity Cadre member for two years. Lillian, a junior at Southwest High School, has been involved with the group for one year. Both felt the presentation and discussion time had been successful.
“It’s really empowering to share what we’ve learned as a group and to see the payoff of what we’ve been working on the entire year,” Jesus said. “It’s really amazing to see how much we were able to accomplish as a group.”
“I would say we definitely gained more input from our community members and some of the people we’ve spoken with before,” Lillian said. “I really love presenting to people. I love taking that feeling away of knowing that I did something for others.”
LPS parent Selina Martinez said she enjoyed talking with people at one of the discussion tables. She came to the presentation because she wanted to learn more about the district’s equity initiatives. One of her children will be in middle school next year and another child will attend preschool.
Martinez said she was impressed with what she heard from Equity Cadre students and local residents during the afternoon. She felt it was a positive example of how the school district is living out its “All Means All” action plan.
“I definitely felt more confident and excited about the work that’s being done,” Martinez said. “I really liked the internal work where they talked about ‘handle hard better.’ I thought that really stood out to me, because these are really hard conversations, and for anyone speaking about them, it’s brave of them to engage in that.
“I definitely was encouraged by that. It shows that they’re really thinking about this.”
Equity Cadre members began their 2023-24 activities last fall and met in February to come up with initial ideas for this year’s address. They worked on their rough draft in March and finalized the script in April. They gave their first State of Diversity speech to Lincoln Board of Education members in late April.
Students first explained how diversity is essential for LPS. They said positive representation of people from all backgrounds can help increase self-esteem for those in marginalized groups and reduce stereotypes of under-represented people. Representation in educational materials and student media of all types – print, broadcast and social – can provide validation and support to members of marginalized groups.
Students also focused a large part of their presentation on ways the Equity Cadre is helping LPS. The group visited many schools for Cadre Storytime events throughout the year. They boosted the academic and social development of preschoolers by reading a diverse range of books to them.
Equity Cadre members worked with Food Bank of Lincoln to improve food equity in the area, shared ideas at the LPS Citizens Academy program and hosted students from five other school districts at the Greater Than One District Empowerment Inclusion Summit. They also established office hours at elementary, middle and high schools to listen to cares and concerns of students and staff.
Lillian said she has gained a great deal from this year’s Equity Cadre events. She said she has passed on those insights to her friends and classmates at Southwest. She is involved in a wide range of school activities such as speech, journalism and Environmental Club.
“It’s helped with my education overall,” Lillian said. “I’ve taken a lot of things I’ve learned from the cadre and said, ‘Oh, I could take this back to my AP language class,’ or ‘This could be beneficial in journalism class.’ I’ve really liked that aspect of it.”
Jesus said he was happy listening to people after the address. Equity Cadre members wrote down ideas on how local residents can support equity initiatives both inside and outside LPS. They also discussed specific possible steps that school board members, certificated and classified staff and fellow students can take in the future.
“It was really fun to be able to interact with other faculty members and community members and hear what they had to say about our presentation,” Jesus said.
Martinez said personal experiences of both her and her oldest son have underscored the importance of the Equity Cadre’s work. She was glad to hear LPS is actively promoting acceptance of all people in school hallways.
“I was happy he told me about (his experiences) and happy we built a game plan, but it’s also nice to know that there’s something more that’s being done that he can benefit from,” Martinez said.
Do you have a story idea? Share it with the LPS Communications Team by filling out this form!

Published: May 15, 2024, Updated: May 16, 2024

From left, LPS Equity Cadre members Jesus, Lillian, Amna and Gabriel present their State of Diversity address at the Steve Joel District Leadership Center. Equity Cadre students talked about ways Lincoln Public Schools can be a model of inclusive excellence. They then joined audience members for roundtable discussions about diversity topics.