As Head of School Priscilla Sands prepares to retire in June, she introduces two new programs that she hopes will continue to grow after she leaves: Violets for Building Equity in Education, a fellowship program for Black Marlborough alumnae to pursue teaching, and the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Expansion Project.
Violets for Building Equity in Education
The ViBEE program (pronounced “vibe”) is an idea Sands put into action. This program will provide full tuition support for Black alumnae to earn a Master’s degree, in addition to partnering with a graduate school, which allows students the flexibility to complete the program while also teaching.
“I had my idea during the pandemic,” Sands said. “I wanted to do something tangible, and I wanted these students to realize how valuable they are to the community.”
The aim of the program is to bring action to Marlborough’s commitment to its “Equity Leads Education” initiative.
“By offering the fellowship, we are acknowledging the talent in our young alumnae and further affirming their value to this community by committing to the continued support of their goals,” Fellowship Program Director Khanichi Charles said. “Their eventual placement as new faculty hires will add to the diversity of perspectives and experiences within departments and inside classrooms, and so on. One parent, Karen Nortman, has crystalized it well by referring to the fellowship program as having a sort of ‘Butterfly Effect,’ where one small change has far-reaching and lasting impacts.”
Charles and her team are currently soliciting interest from local universities to establish a partnership for the graduate training portion of the ViBEE program. Charles also hopes the program will lead to a lasting impact.
“I long for my Black students to have as part of their experience, Black teachers that can mirror back their potential and for my non-Black students to have what is reflected back to them, a perspective that is composed of more than a single note,” Charles said.
CEI Expansion Project
According to CEI Director Regina Rosi-Mitchell, the CEI Expansion Project intends to build upon the foundations within the CEI to create an interdisiplinary space. Some goals include developing courses required for graduation, expanding and deepening curriculum, recruiting teachers from all departments to work in the CEI, expanding the physical space available to teach CEI programs, growing digital presence to teach online CEI courses to Marlborough students and ensuring every student, not just those with preexisting competencies and connections, feels they can access the CEI.
“From the beginning, our philosophy has been that what happens in the CEI shouldn’t stay in the CEI, and also the different mindsets and different competencies we focus on should be embedded in the life of the school, and the city of LA,” Rosi-Mitchell said. “We define entrepreneurship not only as the act of starting a business, but as an engine for social change, especially sustainability.”
According to incoming CEI Director Allison Ponzio, through expanding the CEI programming, the CEI team is hoping to enhance different skill sets for each student.
“We’ve expanded out, now we’re going to expand down,” Ponzio said. “We want to know what competencies we’re giving students, and what level they’re being delivered at. We want to figure out how to reach the most students, and bring in more faculty members. At the end of the day, we want to figure out how to grow most effectively for students, because they’re the most important part.”
The largest change brought by the CEI Expansion Project is the new The Frank & Eileen Accelerator Program for the Leaders of Tomorrow. Loosely based on the startup accelerator Y Combinator in Silicon Valley, the program seeks to give students the funding, resources and mentorship necessary to make their business ideas into a reality.
“The program breaks down the barriers of engineering and entrepreneurship, and allows students to see that they have the capabilities to start a business or create prototypes that can be put into action,” Associate Director of the Accelerator and Engineering and Entrepreneurship Head Lee Mirsky said.
The Accelerator Program will meet after school starting in the of fall 2022. They plan to use the Collins Room, which will eventually be renovated to be the designated Accelerator Program space. The program will be open to applications in the fall. The cohort will be half Marlborough students, and half girls or other gender minorities from other Los Angeles schools.
“We are trying to not only give Marlborough students a chance to grow from this experience, but to expand our roles into Los Angeles, and build on our Equity Leads Education commitment,” Mirsky said. “We hope to bring in students in schools who otherwise wouldn’t have the resources to be part of a project like this.”
The Accelerator Program was made possible through a donation by Founder and CEO of Frank & Eileen Audrey McLoughlin.
“Audrey knew nothing about us, but loved our programming,” Sands said. “We did not expect this donation, and are grateful because it allowed us to accelerate our Accelerator Program plans.”
According to Sands, both ViBEE and the CEI Expansion Project are meant to help students feel empowered to enact change. She was inspired by the Facebook whistleblower who recently exposed wrongdoings within the social media giant.
“I want every Marlborough student to have the strength and courage to right a wrong,” Sands said. “She [the Facebook whistleblower] was so brave. I want [the students] to feel valued at Marlborough, and feel like the school is supporting them. Someone said I could coast to retirement, but that’s not me. I want to leave an impact at Marlborough.”