A series introducing the individuals who promote and lead the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities’ work.
As a student at the University of Richmond, Godfrey Plata participated in the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities’ first Allies Institute (then called Collegetown) in 2004, returning as a facilitator in 2005 and 2006. Thanks to those transformative experiences, Godfrey states that he “gained the confidence to share my sexual orientation more openly with others and therefore be another resource/leader to others.” He also notes that he became more aware of prejudices related to gender and ability status.
Several years later, Godfrey reconnected with VCIC as a facilitator for the Educational Equity Initiative. There, he worked with teams of teachers from three Newport News middle schools to address achievement gaps based on race and class. His work particularly helped to enhance VCIC’s programming around culturally relevant teaching, a concept that he also promotes through his full-time professional role with Teach for America.
Today, as Senior Managing Director for TFA’s Tulsa Institute, Godfrey “work[s] with Tulsa Public Schools and Teach For America to create both summer school programming for 6,000 PK-12 students and a professional development program for over 700 novice teachers and over 200 veteran educators.” He shares some of the critical questions that inform and guide his work:
- “Are we developing students to simply be compliant recipients of their education, or asking them to do heavy lifting and application into their own lives and issues?”
- “Are we empowering communities to be partners in the definition and execution of their kids’ education, or will they merely be subject to the governmental powers that be?”
- “Are we training teachers that affirm the backgrounds of students, or teachers that merely perpetuate status quo power dynamics?”
Godfrey states, “although change is a long process, we are able to make small gains with each annual iteration of our programming.” The same could be said of the change that came from VCIC’s programming when Godfrey was a participant ten years ago — and the work we proudly do alongside him to make a difference today.