Sabrina Claude, Ed.D. is the recipient of the 2018 Outstanding Alumni Award (OAA). She was presented with the award at IGR's 15th Annual Award Ceremony and Graduation Celebration. Dr. Claude is also featured in IGR's podcast DialogueUP!.
Dr. Claude’s journey to social justice is grounded in her upbringing. As a daughter of Haitian immigrants whose educational levels do not exceed middle school, she developed a strong desire to create a more just, inclusive society and world through education. Despite her parents' limited educational levels, Dr. Claude received a quality education from effective teachers who were accountable and held high expectations for her learning. She attended the University of Michigan where she engaged in IGR coursework as a participant and co-facilitator. Through participation in the IGR program, she gained a deep understanding of different social groups through intense dialogue that motivated her to think outside her comfort zone. Dr. Claude’s academic achievements include a doctorate and educational specialist degree in educational leadership from Argosy University, master’s degree in school building leadership and administration from the Teachers College at Columbia University, a second master’s degree in adult education from Central Michigan University, and a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Michigan.
Currently, Dr. Claude works as a school principal in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she is charged with turning around and changing the trajectory of a school in need of improvement. Prior to her role as principal, Dr. Claude served as the Head of School and Founding Principal of Penfield Montessori Academy, Milwaukee’s first fully inclusive Montessori school for students of all abilities. The school is a public Title 1 charter school that serves approximately 60% students with emotional, cognitive, and physical disabilities in a fully inclusive Montessori setting. While at Penfield Montessori Academy, Dr. Claude built a rigorous blended Montessori and special education lab school model for students of all abilities based on three pillars: education, family engagement, and health and wellness. This was accomplished by partnering with a local university and hospital to meet the academic needs of students through school-based health and wellness resources, as well as a behavior clinic. Under her leadership, Dr. Claude increased the performance of students with disabilities compared to their typically developing peers, generated donations in excess of five million dollars to make capital improvement projects including handicap accessibility, and secured financial support from over 30 community partners.
Dr. Claude serves on the board of Wisconsin Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (WASCD). WASCD is a state affiliate of ASCD, one of the largest education associations worldwide. WASCD is committed to increasing effective advocacy for policies and practices that support quality teaching, learning, and leadership throughout the state of Wisconsin.
Below is the full text of Dr. Claude's speech to the class of 2018 (audio clip):
Thank you for that wonderful introduction. I would like to thank the Program on Intergroup Relations for recognizing me for the outstanding alumni award. It is a pleasure to be here with you as we celebrate your remarkable accomplishments. Since my graduation in 2005, I’ve used my IGR experience to advocate for the educational rights of students from urban communities. I’ve done this by working as a teacher, district administrator, university supervisor of beginning teachers, and more recently, a board member for Wisconsin ASCD. I believe in the power of advocacy and will use my privilege to help advance policies that benefit children.
My journey to social justice is deeply rooted in my upbringing. As a daughter to Haitian immigrants but specifically a father who grew up as an orphan on the streets of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, I learned at an early age that an education would be my pathway to a life filled with opportunities. This type of upbringing allowed me to appreciate every simple privilege that I was afforded. But I also gained an unfortunate glimpse into the inequalities that my parents experienced due to their thick accents and limited education. This reality sparked my desire to help create a more just world.
I would like to briefly discuss the impact that IGR has had on my professional career through the lens of one of my students. In 2005, I joined Teach for America, a national service organization committed to ensuing that all children have access to a quality education. I was placed as a teacher in Atlanta, Georgia. I had a third grade student by the name of Brian. Although Brian had been a student at my school since kindergarten, he did not know his letters, sounds, or basic sight words. He was reading on a pre-k level. Brian had advanced to each grade with the same deficiencies until he came to my classroom. During his time in my third grade class, Brian made over one year of growth in reading. I looped with Brian for the next two years. This means that I taught him in fourth and fifth grade. By the time he left my fifth-grade classroom, he was reading on a sixth-grade level. Despite the growth that Brian made in my class, the life he lived was unimaginable. What I did not mention is that I taught directly in the middle of one of the most dangerous public housing buildings in the city. The school was directly across the street from the cemetery and less than one mile away from the penitentiary. Imagine having to stop instruction and have all students drop to the ground due to the sound of bullets. This is a daily reality for many students in our country but despite this reality, we must provide them with the best possible education because students don’t rise to low expectations. Ever since this experience, I set out on a lifelong journey to ensure that every student regardless of his or her socioeconomic background receives a quality education.
I share this story with you because I believe in the power of storytelling. I believe that it’s important to tell my story as well as the story of those who are less fortunate or historically silenced. After my experience as a Teach for America core member and many years later in grad school, I encountered a classmate who told me that my story did not matter. She said the world would not care about my cultural upbringing or the struggle of my parents. This is where my sense of advocacy came in handy. IGR taught me that everyone’s story matters regardless of their standpoint in society. As a graduate of the IGR program, you have a responsibility and obligation to tell your story and the story of others. In essence, you are a brand ambassador for social justice. This means that you have an obligation to stand up and defend injustices, stereotypes, and inequalities that exist. You can choose to act with care and compassion or you can choose to ignore and perpetuate them. In my personal and professional career, I have made a concerted effort to act and I thank IGR for equipping me with this very important skill.
As you leave today, I encourage you to continue to build upon the IGR skills that you gained in order to create sustainable change in your communities. I also challenge you to determine how you are going to use your privilege to enrich the lives of others in your new career. During this process, someone may tell you that your story does not matter nor does the story of others. You must stay firm to who you are and use this valuable experience and privilege to make a difference in the lives of others. Act with care, compassion, empathy, resolve, and a genuine desire to improve the lives of others. Thank you again and congratulations on your accomplishment.
Watch the commemorative video of the 2018 Graduation Celebration.