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Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at ACS

The Avery Coonley School is excited to announce the creation of a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Council. The Council’s primary purpose is to provide oversight of the School’s diversity goals and provide input and guidance to achieve the goals. Additionally, the Council will provide insight on issues of DEI, and also advocate for members of our diverse population.    

The School's DEI goals are a key part of the 2018 Strategic Plan:
Strengthen our identity as a diverse, inclusive, and multicultural school community. Several additional sub-goals and actions fall under this overarching Strategic Plan goal.                                 
     
     

The Council includes representatives from all constituency groups: Parents, Trustees, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, External Experts. Any questions about Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at The Avery Coonley School may be sent to  DEI@averycoonley.org                           


Meet the members of the DEI Council:

Barnali Das Khuntia - Chair

Barnali has two children at ACS (Group 5 & 8) and is an active member of the ACS Parent community, including serving as a Home and School Association officer for 6 years.  

In addition to raising funds and awareness for organizations promoting equity, inclusion, and equal rights, she serves as a Trustee for the Downers Grove Public Library. She also works in high schools, facilitating seminars with Asian students about issues of Anti-Blackness. Barnali is passionate about issues related to DEI and is thankful to be part of a community that is committed to creating an inclusive environment. 





Rebecca Malotke-Meslin - Administrative Liaison

 

Rebecca Malotke-Meslin is the Director of Enrollment and Financial Aid at The Avery Coonley School. Rebecca holds a BA from Oakland University in Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies. With her has a passion for gender equality and social justice, she has worked with Girl Scouts to provide funding and resources to girls in residential foster care. Rebecca also worked for the Michigan Women’s Commission to support policies that improved the lives of girls and women in Michigan. She hopes to use her expertise to reduce bias and increase inclusion at ACS and all independent schools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imran Qureshi - Board of Trustees Liaison


Imran Qureshi is the proud parent of an ACS graduate. He is dedicated to ensuring more children from wide-ranging backgrounds will also be able to experience Avery Coonley’s unique educational programs. Imran brings a rich background of business skills and acumen to his position on the Board of Trustees and DEI. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, with Honors, from the University of Manchester in the U.K., and has guest lectured at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. He continues to share his experiences and knowledge within the business community, and is a Director on the Board of the Human Resources Management Association of Chicago (HRMAC).

 

 

 

 

 

Asma Afridi

Asma Afridi has two children at ACS (Group 6 and 8) and they have been part of the ACS family for 7 years. Asma is a former K-12 Professional School Counselor and has worked to support a safe learning environment in schools. This includes addressing comprehensive needs of all students through culturally relevant prevention and intervention programs. Asma is also a psychotherapist and enjoys working with adolescents and adults in her own private practice

As a professional educator, mental health counselor and a mother, Asma feels that schools play an important role in fostering a sense of belonging for all students by combating prejudice and racial discord. She looks forward to working with the ACS community towards this goal.  Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

 

 

 

Jaden Blankenship

Jaden Blankenship is a Group 8 student at ACS. He is a proud member of the DEI Council, leader of the Student Diversity Leadership Group, and Student Council Representative for his class. Jaden enjoys discussing with his peers what’s currently going on in the world and having conversations, as he believes it is crucial to converse about current events and ongoing topics. When his peers leave a discussion, he hopes they can leave with a better outlook and understanding of the subject. Jaden hopes to contribute to the success of the DEI Council by bringing students together, addressing any diverse matters dealing with race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and LGBTQ+ issues, and bringing it to the council for further discussion so they can help make ACS an even better learning environment for the students. 

 

 

 

Kathryn Breisch '04




Zoe Briskey '10

Zoe Briskey is a 2010 graduate of ACS and a theatre artist and performer. Zoe is the founder and artistic director of South Side Stage, a new theatre company on the South Side of Chicago that seeks to uplift those at the intersections of marginalized races, sexualities, genders, and abilities by educating audiences with new stories centering around these communities, as well as delving into past works, challenging the structure they once held. As a performer, Zoe composes, produces, and performs her original music across the NYC and Chicagoland area, including venues such as Sleep No More, The 4th Street Theatre Stella Adler Studio, among others. Most recently, Zoe has been writing and developing a musical adaptation of Anton Chekhov's The Three Sisters.

 

  

 

Gabrielle Green '90

Gabrielle Green graduated from ACS in 1990 and then attended Miami University in Ohio where she earned two bachelor degrees, one in Zoology and one in Neuroscience. She also holds a Master's degree in public health from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law. Currently, Ms. Green works in the Washington, D.C. area as a trial attorney specializing in criminal defense and has tried over 80 cases over the course of her career.

 

Jeremy Norman

Jeremy Norman is an HR professional and technologist that specializes in learning and development, change management, operational efficiencies and DEI. He brings with him his passion, boundless energy, and desire for change. He has a unique perspective because of his study of culture, travels and his mixed race and mixed faith family heritage.

He spent much of his childhood moving throughout small-town America because of his father's job. He was treated differently and at times unfairly because he was perceived as an outsider and different from others. But without fail, there was always at least one stranger who would show him an incredible kindness and invite him into their circle of friends. From these experiences, he vowed that he would always be that same welcoming spirit for others, sheltering them from the pain of exclusion that he had become accustomed to as a child.

He is a frequent mentor and volunteer freely giving his time and energy to develop others and support worthy causes. He feels a personal obligation to those who came before him and paved the way for him to realize the liberties he experiences today. It is an honor and privilege to give back and return the generosity afforded to him along his journey. He plans to leverage his personal and professional experiences and network to support the DEI Council and the ACS community in achieving its goals.

 

Kara Peters '00

Kara Peters is a 2000 graduate of ACS. She currently lives with her spouse in Grand Ledge, MI and works as a Regional Director of Human Resources for Year Up - an organization committed to closing the opportunity divide by providing young adults with the technical and professional skills they need to move from minimum wage jobs to meaningful careers in one year or less. Kara has worked in the non-profit space for the past twelve years and has extensive experience working with people with disabilities and marginalized communities. She is committed to building equitable and inclusive systems and processes to work towards the structural elimination of bias. 

 

 

 

Dina Pilipczuk

 

Dina Pilipczuk has a son at ACS in Group 1 and is an active member of the ACS parent community. She has served as a room parent, and development liaison. She is honored to be a member of the DEI Council. Now more than ever, she believes that we have an obligation to strengthen the diverse identity of our community in positive and productive means. Having played key leadership roles in advancing DEI work professionally, she hopes to be able to replicate similar success in our community through the work of the DEI Council. She looks forward to partnering with everyone on engaging, transparent dialogue and action around this responsibility.  

  

 

 

 

Asna Qureshi

Asna Qureshi is a Middle School Math Teacher at ACS. She is proud to now serve as a member of the DEI Council because she believes in the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Growing up, she was the only Pakistani-American Muslim at her school. It was difficult to be the only one, and she wants students at ACS to know that the school is taking steps to ensure they are represented, and they are not alone. She hopes to contribute to the success of the DEI council by acting as a resource for students and staff at ACS.

  

 

 

 

 

JP Ramirez

 


Priyanka Rupani '02

Priyanka Rupani, ACS class of 2002, is Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at University of Chicago Laboratory Schools where she is an alum. Previously, Priyanka served as the director of diversity, equity, and social justice at the Friends School of Baltimore. Priyanka completed her B.A. from Northwestern University with a focus on comparative race studies and economics and her M.S.Ed from the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on urban education. She was a member of the 2010 Teach for America Philadelphia Corps. Priyanka taught math, then African-American history at Mastery Charter Thomas Campus (MCTC) from 2010-2015. Priyanka is a Principal Consultant for the Glasgow Group and is also a faculty member for the National Association of Independent Schools’ annual Student Diversity Leadership Conference. She is excited to serve on the ACS DEI Council to share her expertise and give back to a school that gave her so much.

 

 



Jaime Surdynski

Jaime Surdynski joined the ACS community in 2014 as the Music Teacher and Choir Director. She has served as Fine Arts Department Chair, mentor, and Diversity Representative for LMAIS, but her favorite role continues to be teaching. She creates a safe classroom space where all students are included and celebrated. Jaime also has experience with American Sign Language (ASL) and is proficient in Spanish.

In her personal life, Jaime works to create a similarly welcoming environment with her husband and son. As a family, they have lots of rescue pets, and they volunteer & foster animals in need for a local animal shelter. She is grateful to be a part of the ACS community that prioritizes diversity, equity, & inclusion.


 


Neha Thakkar

 

Neha Thakkar is the Learning Resource & Media Specialist at ACS and a member of the DEI Council. She wants to learn more about the diversity at ACS along with supporting students and faculty who are in the right academic setting but don't feel like they have a place they belong. 

She is passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion because she went through some of the same experiences as a child and never had anyone to turn to, did not understand microaggressions, and did not have supports for these kinds of issues. She'd like to learn more and help students understand the world around them. 

She hopes to contribute to the success of the DEI Council by encouraging an inclusive lens within the curriculum, reading materials, and recognizing that curriculum should reflect students' diversity along with giving windows into other lifestyles and worlds.

 

Nina Tipton

Nina Tipton has 3 children at ACS: (Kindergarten, Group 2, and Group 4). She joined the DEI Council to advocate for equity and intervention across the entire ACS community. She believes in voices of color and celebrating people of all backgrounds and communities. She hopes to be an integral part of making ACS an example of what a healthy and tolerant school community should look like. 

 

 

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