Dear Supporter Ji,
My name is Jasleen Kaur, and this summer, I had the incredible opportunity to intern with the Sikh Coalition’s education team. Over the past 10 weeks, I worked on several projects focused on creating safer and more inclusive classrooms, including one effort that the Sikh Coalition has been focused on for more than a decade: addressing the need to teach accurate, constitutionally appropriate, and relevant information about Sikhism and Sikh history in our nation’s classrooms.
With several states currently undergoing major revisions in their state standards, I was able to learn the behind-the-scenes work that Sikh Coalition does to ensure Sikh students feel safe and included in their classes. While I helped to advance the Sikh Coalition’s efforts in Illinois, Minnesota, and Virginia, working on my home state of North Carolina was most meaningful to me because I was personally connected to the work.
This work came to a head last month, and it was incredible to be part of the win when the North Carolina State Board of Education approved content and examples that, for the first time, included Sikhism for the K-12 social studies standards.
As a Sikh Punjabi student, I was shocked when I took my first U.S. History and World History courses and discovered how our identity and histories have been misrepresented or ignored in the current standards and curriculum. The contrast between what I had been learning in my Gurmat School classes and what little was presented in schools was stark. I was fortunate to have understanding teachers along the way who were willing to unlearn the information and histories they’d been taught, but I can’t say the same for all students across North Carolina--which is one reason why I’m so passionate about advancing inclusivity in our education. Because of the addition of Sikhi to supplemental examples, we have an opportunity to reach out to school districts across the state.
Currently, the politicization of critical race theory has added another layer of complexity to this work, especially in North Carolina, where political tensions are high. Working with the Sikh Coalition has really opened my eyes to the patience, perseverance, and dedication it takes to organize and create change in policy and practice--and how community members engaging their lawmakers and educators are essential to the process!
It’s been an amazing journey not only to have worked alongside such inspiring role models, but also to have gained valuable experience in education, advocacy, and leadership that I will take forward. Even as my internship wrapped up, I made plans to stay involved in these efforts--including by presenting during the Sikh Coalition’s webinar for North Carolina parents and students last week.
There is a lot of work ahead, but I’m confident that, together, the sangat can continue fighting for inclusion in educational materials--and in doing so, raise Sikh awareness and make classrooms a safer, more welcoming place for our kids.
Education Team Intern
The Sikh Coalition
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