Sabrina Hopkins believes there is more work to be done to make Northampton High School a place where students of color like her feel safe and embraced. For example, Hopkins would like to see more classes that teach about and draw on the experiences of people of color. She would also like structures put in place to ensure that assignments are accessible for students who don’t have personal computers that can get around blocked material on school-issued chromebooks.
A junior at NHS, Sabrina has already been hard at work on these systemic concerns as the leader of the Student Union’s Anti-Racist and Bias subcommittee. As part of this subcommittee, Sabrina has pushed for curriculum changes that would allow more NHS students to access diverse and representative courses. For example, she advocated for courses like Black History and Modern Middle East to be offered every year rather than every other year.
Sabrina has also been active with the school’s Students of Color Association (SOCA), which has given her the opportunity to connect with peers outside of the classroom. This year she is serving as the co-vice president of the group. Participating in SOCA has been especially important because she is often one of only a few students of color in her classes. For Sabrina, SOCA has been “a space to make connections and talk to other people about what their experiences have been as students of color in NHS.” What she’s learned from these connections is that, despite the equity and social justice work being done in the Northampton schools, not all students of color feel welcomed or safe. This has motivated Sabrina to keep working and to take on new roles: this year she is serving as president of the Student Union.
While she has embraced this new, big role, Sabrina is also a believer in the power of small moments and personal relationships. She says her goal each day is to “do one little thing that’s gonna make school a bit better for people of color and more safe.” She feels that sometimes conversations about race and racism can become too abstract, especially in Northampton where the percentage of people of color is small. Sabrina believes that the social and emotional components of equity work are crucial. “This type of work is deeply personal and social,” she says. “It doesn’t just mean reading a book or writing a paper and being done, it means making connections with people in your community.” Sabrina brings this deeply human approach to all she does at NHS.
With its “Shine On” series, REAL spotlights educators, caregivers, staff, and students who are using their energy, creativity, and heart to build community and dismantle systemic racism in Northampton Public Schools and beyond.