CHS Equity and Inclusion Committee: A “Voice” for the Voiceless

Ms. Mauroff (left) and Ms. Bouggess (right) were appointed as co-chairs of the recently established Cultural Heritage Celebrations subcommittee, as a part of the Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Ms. Mauroff (left) and Ms. Bouggess (right) were appointed as co-chairs of the recently established Cultural Heritage Celebrations subcommittee, as a part of the Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Tom Callaghan

The Cultural Heritage Celebrations Subcommittee organizes “spaces” to honor and celebrate the diverse cultures of CHS students. The subcommittee is one of four for the CHS Equity and Inclusion Committee, established this school year by Mr. Gorman and the administration. Ms. Bouggess and Ms. Mauroff were appointed co-chairs of the committee. The formation of the committee was a product of both a long-term need for inclusion, as well as sparked by recent events, such as the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer. With the goal of promoting equity and inclusion for all students, specifically students of color who have been underrepresented at CHS, the committee works with faculty members, administration, alumni, and students. 


The confluence of social unrest and social media uprising were a catalyst for the administration to take action during the spring and summer of 2020. Cinnaminson High School conducted focus groups with students of color and alumni who had voiced concerns about the racial climate at CHS.


Each month, the Cultural Heritage Subcommittee (of the Equity and Inclusion committee) focuses on the celebration of a different CHS family culture to celebrate the diversity of the Pirate community. Working in partnership with students, the marching band, the TV Production class, and more, the committee has produced videos featuring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., indigenous culture, Hispanic culture, and Brazilian heritage. 


Another subcommittee, Inclusive Hallways, completed its first of four visual displays, which can be found in the cafeteria hallway. It recognizes Cinnaminson High School is on the ancestral lands of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape tribe and highlights some of their rich traditions and heritage. The Survey committee is closing up their first task and will disperse student, staff, and family surveys this February to collect important feedback for ongoing Equity and Inclusion initiatives.

The committee’s inclusive hallway initiative features a map highlighting the different Indigenous tribes of the United States.

Input and support from the CHS school community has been pivotal to the work of the committee. The Cultural Heritage Subcommittee has been working with students in order to gain a youthful perspective and connection. Mario Rivera, a junior featured in a CHS TV episode’s “Cultural Corner,” shared he was happy to work with the subcommittee. Describing the process as new and interesting, Mario answered questions about his culture and said he used this experience “to show even a little of the magical country where I am from.”


As explained by Ms. Bouggess, the Data subcommittee is in a “gathering phase;” she emphasized the idea that one of the main goals is to train the staff to teach, talk, and discipline students with equity in mind. Ms. Mauroff and Ms. Bouggess highlighted the current problem that discriminatory actions of some students can often go unnoticed or unpunished.


According to Ms. Bouggess, there is also a need to look at the existing qualifications for honors such as Winner’s Circle and Hall of Fame. When doing her preliminary research for the Equity and Inclusion Committee, she asked the question: “the qualifications for achievement… can they be modified so that we can make sure that we include all students, students of color and the general population?”


Ms. Bouggess, one of the few staff members of color, explained, “I did not feel like I had a voice; I did not feel like my voice had value.”


Rationalizing that if she faced these experiences then her high school students probably did as well, Ms. Bouggess and the committee reached out to students. After the focus groups were conducted, her suspicions were confirmed. Many students of color voiced their experiences that they felt as if they could not be themselves at school.  Seeing some of herself in those students, Ms. Bouggess says she took a leadership position in the committee to “give a voice to the voiceless.” 


Ms. Mauroff, as a non-academic teacher, got to know her students on a more personal level. She had seen student divisions first hand and even said many of her students expressed to her they hate being at school. Ms. Mauroff, who said she was inspired to provide her students with a voice and a platform, also took a leadership position on the Equity and Inclusion Committee. She reported after the administration was talking to them, the students were “relieved and excited that the conversation was even present.”

June student-led protesters starting at Wood Park marched along Pomona Road.

On May 25th, 2020 Mr. George Floyd was killed by a police officer who, while surrounded by fellow officers, knelt on Mr. George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 48 seconds until his heart expired. Mr. George Floyd, along with back-to-back cases of black people being killed by law enforcement, led to a massive movement across the nation, which reached Cinnaminson. CHS students, along with other community members, of all creeds, religions, ethnicities, and skin colors organized a rally in June at Wood Park to support Black Lives Matter and the fight for racial justice. Superintendent Capello talked about CHS’s need to become anti-racist; he spoke ensuring students realized their efforts for equity were not going unnoticed. 


With the support of students, teachers, and administrators, and the leadership of Ms. Bouggess and Ms. Mauroff, the Equity and Inclusion Committee is laying the foundation for a more inclusive school environment. The committee is working to make sure the school is a place where “students that have never had a voice before are now given a voice.”