Micah Jumpp Has Created a Change Movement

By Jennifer L. Warren

FISHKILL – For Micah Jumpp, it’s work that has to be done, and there is no better time to get it done than right now.

Jumpp, a 2017 John Jay High School alumna, now a senior at Binghamton University, is the founder of the Wappingers Central School District’s Change Movement, an eight member alumni and current student group, dedicated to securing critical diversity, tolerance and equity in both the curriculum and overall treatment of the student population. A first generation American of Jamaican parentage, Jumpp tucked away many of the discriminatory and hurtful experiences she endured during her public school years. Whether it was being spat on or called the “N” word in elementary school or later more subtle, isolating overtures (“microaggressions”) due to being one of the few black members on her high school and club swim teams, Jumpp remained silent and carried on. The same level of acceptance applied to the curriculum, one that included sparse amounts of African-American and Indigenous history.

“A lot of the African-American History I’ve learned from my parents and other people, not in school,” pointed out Jumpp. “As far as local history, many of my friends from this area never even knew there were slave cemeteries right here in the Hudson Valley.” She added, “People go on to graduate and not be culturally responsive, ruled by racial bias.”

This past summer, Jumpp was profoundly moved by some of the consequences that can result from that awareness gap with the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor incidents along with ensuing national movement for social justice. She was “inspired to act.” The disturbing events served as a powerful catalyst, unleashing locked up memories of harmful inequity she and many of her friends experienced at John Jay as well as at college. It wasn’t long before she acted.

Drafting a letter, containing a Call to Action, along with Personal Statement urging her former School District to commit to racial justice and fair treatment for all students, Jumpp was able to attain 327 signatures along with 31 powerful personal statements from WCSD students, parents, alumni, faculty and staff who had undergone some type of blatant bias.

“I immediately saw how I wasn’t alone in what happened to me,” reflected Jumpp. “This wasn’t just a racial issue either, but covered much more, and the movement really began to take off.”

An extremely popular Instagram account, devoted to the cause, soon emerged, where students shared stories. Meanwhile Jumpp connected with the John Jay Black Student Union, passionately spoke at Town Hall Meetings, discussed her mission for change with community partners, reached out to several administrators in the WCSD, and drafted a 63 page document, supporting her Call to Action and sent out to all of the building Principals as well as a host of other administrators and key players.

“I wasn’t initially happy with the response, as only one Principal answered, although the head of the Teacher’s Union was helpful, but I just felt like I wasn’t being heard,” said Jumpp, who even brought some of her group’s students to the meetings. “However, when I finally read something I wrote, I got a meeting with Dr. Michelle Cardwell, the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, who was very receptive and was joined by the rest of the Curriculum Committee and some Board members, allowing myself and the three alumnae who went with me to air our concerns and have follow-ups.”

The most recent discussion took place on January 7, 2021, when Jumpp reconvened with Dr. Cardwell, joined by Acting Deputy Superintendent, Dr. Dwight Bonk. Here, some previously discussed November issues, such as implementing a more diverse curriculum and swapping out/adding books for racial justice by people of color, were discussed. The general consensus was that more needed to be done.

This time, Jumpp condensed her concerns into three main issues she would like to see addressed within a two-three month timetable. First, her group wants to see the reactivation of the Culturally Responsive Committee (CRC), both a District-wide one as well as in each school. Additionally, the group seeks to see a change in the District’s Mission Statement and-or dedicating a page on the District’s website to be more inclusive on graduating students who are culturally competent and anti-racist. Finally, they would like to have the implementation of an Anti-Discrimination Policy, both enforcement and awareness, ensuring all students are fully aware of all the processes to investigate bias and discrimination claims.
And then there is the other short-term aspiration Jumpp has. Realizing these issues are not limited to the WCSD, she sees the dire need for similar groups like her Change Movement to form and advocate.

“I want to inspire students in other districts to start up a similar group; they are needed in every school, and anyone is capable of starting one up,” explained Jumpp. “I have learned once you get a meeting with the Superintendent , narrow down what you want to see done to two-three things within a specified time frame, and then make sure to have follow ups every month.” Jumpp, who has gained precious confidence and support along the way, as well as become powerfully aware of the integral need to do this work on the K-12 level, added, “Know deep down that this kind of movement is really needed, and never doubt yourself or get discouraged; just keep going until you see the change.”

To learn more about Jumpp’s Change Movement group, visit Instagram, where you can find them at: WCSD_change.

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