2020 - MASSACHUSETTS
Jason Nuñez is a senior at Pingree School in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. He comes from a Dominican family in the city of Lawrence, Massachusetts. At Pingree, he serves as leader of the People of Color Club, an affinity group that provides people of color in the community a space for safety and belonging. His sophomore year, frustrated with the lack of communication between faculty and students, Jason founded the Student Equity and Inclusion Committee. This committee meets monthly with faculty to discuss ways to improve the community's approach to equity and inclusion. After a string of racially charged incidents, Jason also founded and serves on the Standard Council, a disciplinary body that hears cases that violate the nondiscrimination policies at school. In meetings with administrators, he strongly advocated that the Standards Council be implemented as a way to provide a teaching opportunity for those who engage in discriminatory actions. Although Jason would never consider himself an actor, he also helped start an improvisational group that uses a form of theater of the oppressed, where the audience has an opportunity to learn how to take action and be an ally of racial justice. A scenario in which there is an injustice takes place, whether it be a lack of access, a microaggression, or any other form of discrimination. The audience then has an opportunity to discuss what went wrong. The group then performs the scenario again, but this time, people are encouraged to call out, "Pause," when they feel that they can sub out one of the actors in order to improve the outcome. The face-to-face aspect of the performance sparked the name I2I, or Improv to Improve. Jason and I2I performed in front of parents, faculty, a local town hall, and even a fifth grade class, but his performances for his predominantly white student body had the most impact. After performing a scene where a black student clearly does not feel like he belongs, he delivered an emotional monologue expressing his experience with belonging at school. Jason wishes to continue his work in equity and inclusion at Amherst College, and is currently planning to organize another Improv to Improve performance for a local community center.