Meet Ka’myia Gunn, Summer ’17 UELIP

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By Kyle Hietala

DCPS Office: Office of Teaching and Learning, Secondary Mathematics and Middle School Mathematics
Education: Rising Junior at the College of William & Mary
Program of Study/Major: Government, Dance
Hometown: Richmond, Virginia

This summer, Ka’myia is creating materials, such as lesson sequencing guides, curriculum planning calendars, and flashcards and study tools for students, to better support DCPS math teachers in grades 6-8. In a typical day, she’s hard at work developing the mathematics Canvas webpages, a project which has improved her technical skills, especially in html. She found UELIP through the Leadership and Community Engagement program at her college. “Education stood out to me because of the activities I’m involved with,” she pointed out.

Those activities share a common theme and passion: equity. At William & Mary, Ka’myia has taken courses about race and crime, and Africana studies, two learning experiences which made her more aware and concerned about education, particularly in communities of color. During the school year, she gained more applied experience by mentoring a middle school student.

One particular experience in her mentoring role stood out to Ka’myia. “One day, the student I was mentoring got asked to stay in during lunch break to take a test,” she remembered. “But he wasn’t at all prepared for the test, and didn’t know he’d be asked to take it then,” she added.

“When he spoke up to his teacher, she refused to let him postpone it.” But then Ka’myia intervened on his behalf. “I stood up for him, and his teacher changed her mind when I advocated on his behalf,” she said proudly. “I felt like I was his role model and advocate,” she reflected. Her mentee, however, confessed to her that his teacher’s insensitivity wasn’t abnormal. “That’s just how she treats me,” he said to Ka’myia.

Of her experience, Ka’myia said that she “didn’t feel like [she] was his hero, I just felt like something had to be done.” She thinks that if we do a better job of “training teachers how to respect all of their students, we’d be better off.” “That got me fired up,” she said. “Race and education were two things running through my mind.”

“I came into school wanting to be a corporate lawyer,” Ka’myia admitted. But then a course about race and crime changed her whole life. “Communities are suffering in ways they don’t even know,” she said. “Drug laws, traffic stops–these issues in criminal justice are perceived differently in relation to race,” she pointed out. “For a long time, the law has been hurting the same people,” she observed. “I want to make people aware of their rights, because otherwise they’re more likely to believe stereotypes, that they’re just lawbreakers.” Little surprise that corporate law no longer appeals to her as strongly.

“One of my best traits is to bring empathy into whatever I do,” she said. Ka’myia hopes to tackle inequity in the criminal justice system. But law school is the next step, which she hopes to do after college. One way she has learned to practice empathy, and something she hopes more people will do, is re-conceptualize the language they use to talk about people who were incarcerated. “Instead of calling them ex-offenders,” she said, “I prefer ‘returning citizens.'” Even though it’s a small change, she said it’s something that can make a difference, and that the magnitude of impact only grows when more and more people make those small changes.

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