Following the tragic death of George Floyd last year, Portland Adventist Academy joined Adventist organizations worldwide in condemning violence and racism.
In written public statements PAA administrators said, “We desire to help and heal the pain of broken trust. We want to do better ...” and “We commit to doing our part to eradicate hate, condemn violence and stand up to acts of racism, living out Christ’s command to ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'”
That commitment became action immediately:
- As a community, the school began an educational partnership with the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, which uses the universal lessons of the Holocaust in their work. The school began professional growth with OJMCHE. A student session was also provided.
- PAA teachers and staff studied perspectives of black Americans during the summer of 2020.
- Beginning the 2020–21 school year, professional growth sessions continued with the OJMCHE. Micah 6:8 was chosen as the school year’s theme, in further commitment to God's commands to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him and each other.
- Seven more professional development sessions explored topics like identity and intersectionality, inclusive education and more. In effort to understand PAA history, one session included alumni voices revealing experiences with racism at PAA.
- Five PAA parent workshops with the OJMCHE gave adults tools to talk to young people about racism.
“We are only at the beginning of this journey,” says Mechelle Peinado, PAA principal. “We must be purposeful in growing and learning about the experiences, challenges and barriers each of our students of color experience.”
One PAA student deeply impacted by the social unrest last summer is senior Ulani Brown. She chose to use her senior project to explore racism in the Adventist Church. "What inspired me to choose my senior project was to be the change that I wanted to see," says Brown. "Living in a world full of racism is very difficult, but instead of running away from the problem I wanted to face it head on. I struggled with the concept of tackling such an important issue within my own community, but I realized that it is more important to try and make a change in the community that I love rather than leaving it for someone else to do."
In continuing to follow the commands of Micah 6:8, Peinado says, “We are committed to doing better and loving better both individually and as a whole school. We are so grateful for our staff, families, students, church members and constituents of color. We look forward to learning more and growing into better advocates and partners.”