The First Sidwell Summer Equity and Justice Institute Kicks Off

This summer, camp at Sidwell Friends looks mostly normal—masked tennis players have hit the courts, sewing machines are whirring in some classrooms, and little kids are crafting puppets out of anything that can be glued together. One change is the brand-new Sidwell Summer Equity and Justice Institute, a set of programs for rising 9th-12th graders that helps campers develop tools, skills, and abilities to become ethical leaders. The program kicked off with GenHERation Exploration, which featured guidance from female leaders across the country, as well as group activities and a final “impact project,” in which groups came up with a charity that would address a social issue.

“It was so great to be with people who shared an interest in business and hear from people about their experiences,” said Jasmine Flowers ’24, who participated GenHERation Exploration, as well as other camps in the Equity and Justice Institute. “It was a great experience to learn from those business leaders.”

For the final impact project, Flowers and her group created Helping Hands, a (not yet real) charity that assisted with job placement for formerly incarcerated individuals. “Something like 27% of formerly incarcerated people can’t get jobs, and that means they’re more likely to go back to prison,” Flowers said. “That really struck me because I didn’t realize it was such a large number.” Helping Hands, she explained, would do more than match people with jobs—it would have a restaurant where people could work, a garden that would provide produce to the restaurant (and create more jobs), as well as a clothing store that could provide free or reduced clothing to people for job interviews. It could also, she said, function as a food distribution center for people who lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables. “It all works together,” she said.

"Try new things—try everything. Don't ever box yourself into one thing."

A lesson she’ll come away with, Flowers says, is a reconceptualization of what her career might look like. “One woman said you don’t have to think of your career as a ladder; you can think of it as a jungle gym,” she said. “That was an insight I’d never heard before.”

Being one of the fiirst campers to experience the Equity and Justice Institute was a rewarding experience, Flowers said. “The biggest thing I learned is to just try new things—try everything,” she said. “Don’t ever box yourself into one thing.”

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