Garfield’s Congress of Racial Equity (CORE) has long been a beacon of hope for the school’s racially diverse student population. The club’s quarterly retreats allow students of all backgrounds to openly discuss issues of race, gender, sexuality, family dynamics and more that are typically avoided in the classroom. For CORE, this year is marked by radical changes caused by administration turnover and financial constraints. All but one of last year’s CORE officers graduated in the class of 2019. Senior Shayla Stevens, CORE’s solo returning officer, is excited for a batch of new faces.
“They have a fresh set of eyes [into the club] and they are going to offer new ideas and perspectives,” Stevens said.
A turnover in staff allows the program to shift focus and connect to the community in new ways. Amarra Andresen, a new CORE staff member, is looking forward to getting seniors and people of color out onto trips in higher numbers than in previous years.
“Having people of color be more involved allows for more conversations to be had,” Andresen said.
To start, the club has made an effort to recruit a greater number of nonwhite officers. Under previous leadership, the retreats were comprised mostly of white students. Now, the club is being adapted to support and welcome students of color.
Along with new staff and new trip-goers, there are also new issues arising with the program. One of those is that the club is struggling this year with their finances. CORE tries its best to make its trips available to every student. This means that low income students can get scholarships up to $200 in order to attend the retreats. Low-income students often overlap with students of color.
“Since systematic oppression is so strong, people of color can’t pay for these trips,” said Stevens.
However, the cost of these scholarships add up quickly, especially when many kids can’t afford the full price.
The PTSA and Garfield do not help with fundraising for the club. CORE receives only $2,000 annually from the PTSA despite trips costing nearly $15,000 each. With three trips per year this can total almost $45,000. Though CORE fundraises on its own, it is not enough to support the club’s long-term plans. With shifting demographics on retreats, fewer students can pay, leaving an unsustainable cost on the dwindling paying population. This year’s officers are looking for community
members to step up and donate on SchoolPay to support the club.
CORE creates a space for many Garfield students to have life-altering conversations and realizations. The new officers are reinvigorating the program and the changes coming to CORE’s student makeup is promising. However, change can only come to CORE if the program can muster the financial resources to keep it afloat for the years to come.