Author and Education Activist, José Luis Vilson, Visits Sacred Heart Church

During Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 to October 15, Sacred Heart Center in Richmond welcomed Nativity Mission Center and Xavier High School graduate, José Luis Vilson, to address both English speaking and Spanish speaking communities on October 3 and 4 respectively.  Vilson spoke about his 2014 book “This is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education," but also related his personal experiences at the Jesuit sponsored middle and high schools he attended, as well as his current vocation as a public school middle school teacher in New York City.

José Luis Vilson spoke about his experiences and his book on race, class and education.

For Vilson, humanity and inclusivity are at the core of creating a productive learning environment in today’s society. “One of the things that happens in classrooms is that we forget we are human beings,” Vilson said. “It’s not so much about scores and standards, it’s about the relationships that we create with students."

In addition to advocating for personal relationships in the classroom, Vilson also challenged current federal education policies, such as Common Core standards, and questioned whether they are inclusive for people of all backgrounds.

“I want people to think that we all belong at the table,” Vilson said. “And if we can’t be there, then we need to create a new table, policy-wise."

Vilson is the founder of EduColor, a coalition of educators, parents, students, writers and activists who work to elevate the voices of public school advocates of color on educational equity and justice.

Vilson was introduced by another Nativity and Xavier graduate, Danny Perez, currently Executive Director of the NativityMiguel Coalition and formerly principal of Nativity Mission Center and St. Aloysius School in Harlem. Danny also shared the values learned at Nativity and Camp Monserrate and how these continue to be promoted in the schools that make up the NativityMiguel Coalition.

Fr. Jack Podsiadlo, SJ, director of leadership at the Sacred Heart Center, stands between Danny Perez and José Luis Vilson.

For the Sacred Heart community, it was an opportunity to hear an inspiring national perspective on strategies to uplift students of color to ensure educational equity and justice.

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