BOSC Committee recommends funding for BIPOC organizations

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Ward 5 BOSC Member Jason Bonilla (center) poses with several members of the public following Wednesday’s meeting. Courtesy photo/Jason Bonilla

MANCHESTER, N.H. – The Manchester Board of School Committee (BOSC) Finance and Facilities Committee received rousing applause on Wednesday night from a crowd grateful for their unanimous recommendation of a proposal to provide $220,123 to four BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) youth organizations in the greater Manchester area.

Those organizations include the Manchester Community Action Coalition, which provides educational resources for historically disadvantaged students in Manchester; the Safari Youth Club, which provides afterschool sports opportunity for refugee and immigrant children in Manchester; Spark the Dream, a non-profit that helps African refugees and immigrants overcome obstacles hindering integration into American culture while celebrating African tradition; and Victory Women of Vision, a group that tutors immigrant and refugee students.

While some members of the public spoke in support of the organizations themselves, several spoke for the need for greater support of BIPOC youth in the city and the opportunity this motion provided to show that support.

One of those speakers was Sarah Georges, daughter of former BOSC member Mary Georges.

Georges said she loved the city of Manchester, but also felt out of place in Manchester in part due to her experiences in the city’s schools, such as being a victim of racism by a teacher in third grade and a feeling of abandonment by educators due to her dyslexia.

On Wednesday night, she told the committee that this was just the first step what needs to be done to overcome what she sees as systemic inequity within the city’s education and urged the committee to take her struggles into account when they made their decision.

“These kids now need it, the funding needs to be in these programs, and there’s not even enough of them. This right here, there needs to be more. I get that you represent the children and the kids, but you really need to look at the kids that look like me because you have not represented me for a long time,” she said. “I’m going to fight for (these kids), and I hope you do too. Don’t fail them.”

With the sheer number of people in attendance for the item, Finance and Facilities Committee Chairman Jim O’Connell moved the item ahead in the agenda, with members of the committee lining up to share their support for the idea.

Ward 1 BOSC Member Julie Turner, Ward 2 BOSC Member Sean Parr and Ward 4 BOSC Member Leslie Want and thanked the members of the public for coming out to testify on the measure such as, with Want hoping those who spoke tonight will return in the future and continue to be leaders in the local educational community.

Ward 3 BOSC Member Karen Soule said that the testimony actually swayed their decision, which was uncertain prior to hearing the voices earlier in the evening.

“I am a data-driven person, but the testimonials and the stories about how this has impacted your lives really spoke to me,” said Soule.

O’Connell was also initially concerned with supporting the request, not because there isn’t a need, but due to the lack of data that usually comes with monetary requests. But after the testimony, he was also swayed.

“This is an important night in Manchester. I’ve been here for a long time, and for these voices to at last be heard, this is a big deal,” said O’Connell.

Ward 11 BOSC Member Dr. Nicole Leapley said her support for the measure came from a need to help encourage more direct in-person support for students and Ward 5 BOSC Member Jason Bonilla thanked the members of the community who testified to show that the voices of Manchester’s black and brown communities matter.

Funding for the measure will come from Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III (ESSER III) funds, a part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

The measure now goes before the full BOSC for final approval.


About this Author

Andrew Sylvia

Assistant EditorManchester Ink Link

Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and licensed to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.