Nansemond-Suffolk Academy anti-racist alumni group calling for change at school


SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – A group of alumni from a private school in Suffolk is pushing for racial equity and change on campus.

Former students of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy say the school needs to become a more diverse and anti-racist environment.

The group is called the NSA Anti-Racist Saints. They’re calling on the school to make systemic changes to create a more inclusive community.

The school said it’s taking steps toward that, but the group said more needs to be done.

There’s an Instagram profile dedicated to Nansemond-Suffolk Academy alumni sharing stories of the school days. However, these memories are painful experiences with racism. 

“My first five years there, I remember just feeling so alone with no help. Like, I just felt like I was on an island by myself,” said Warren Carroll, who graduated from NSA in 1999.

The NSA Anti-Racist Saints formed with the goal of creating systemic change at their alma mater. Members said the school needs to be part of the tough conversations about racial injustice due to their history. 

“It was founded in the 1960s to specifically resist the integration of public schools,” said Sabrina Haque, who graduated from NSA in 2008.

The group sent a letter to NSA with 10 action points starting with addressing the past. They also want more black and brown students admitted, more black and brown educators hired and curriculum to be more diverse, too. 

“It doesn’t only benefit the black students and students of color. It benefits the white students graduating from Nansemond-Suffolk to be able to step up in a society and help it become more just,” said Olivia Howell, a 2008 alumnus.

The group said calls and emails to school officials have gone unanswered. They also said, at one point, the school blocked their social media accounts.

Head of School Debbie Russell said the alumni’s concerns are taken seriously. 

“Nansemond-Suffolk Academy takes very seriously issues raised by alumni and others in the community regarding how Black and Brown students engage with our school, today and in the past. At both the staff and board level, we are taking steps to address challenges and identify solutions, including developing a framework for our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at NSA that identifies gaps in programming, training and professional development as well as potential resources and/or partnerships to guide our efforts. In addition, we have been working with a few donors to establish an endowment fund to provide ongoing financial support for professional development and training for students, faculty and staff to support our programming and our efforts. We have and will continue to provide support for students and families to help them manage the challenging situation our nation faces regarding race. Further, as I stated in a letter to the NSA community in June, “we cannot ignore our history or mistakes we may have made in the past, (but) it is important that we look forward together. At NSA, we resolve to further our commitment to improve our school, our community and our world through further education and action so every individual, regardless of the color of their skin or differences, feels safe, respected, valued and connected to those around them.” We believe these are important steps to ensure that our efforts are strategic, with purpose and intention.”

The group said they hope communication improves so they can work toward a more inclusive future for all students.

“We are disappointed in the academy that they have not responded to us directly and we’re hoping to hear from them in the near future,” said Kenny Rice, a 2010 alumus. 

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