Bedford High School will be pulsating with about 300 students, teachers, alumni, volunteers, and guests on Saturday, April 29, while hosting the 12th annual Latino/a and African American Tenacity Challenge.
The scholarship competition for student teams from high schools throughout the region will feature contests in four arenas: art, history, literature, and mathematics.
Guest speaker at the event will be Dr. Kandice A. Sumner, national public speaker, author, and consultant on issues of race, achievement, antiracism, culture, equity, and activism. Sumner, who attended Weston Schools under the METCO program, now teaches humanities in the Brockton public schools.
Twenty-eight teams of up to six members each have registered, according to Akil Mondesir, METCO and diversity, equity, and inclusion director for the Bedford schools. Four of the teams are from BHS; others are from as close as Lexington and Burlington and as far as Framingham, Methuen, and Walpole.
The theme for this year’s event is, “The Controversy over Racism in Education.” Mondesir said judges will see who is most convincing as teams argue contrasting points connected to the theme:
“Should our public schools teach all students that systemic racism is embedded in U.S. laws, culture, economy, politics, and education and that achieving equity requires that institutional racism in schools be dismantled? Or that racism is solely a matter of individual acts of prejudice and discrimination and that, rather than teaching about racism, schools need to make sure that African American and Latino/a students have equal opportunity?”
According to the Tenacity Challenge website, “During the extended period of preparation, students build academic capacity, strengthen intellectual risk-taking, and develop enduring peer and faculty relationships.”
Guests will include Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad; his successor as of July 1, Cliff Chuang; and his predecessor, Jon Sills, who Mondesir said was the “driving force” behind establishing the Tenacity Challenge in 2012 when he was BHS principal. Dr. Percy Napier, who was Bedford METCO coordinator at the time, is also expected at the April 29 challenge.
“I don’t think any of us thought we would get as big as we are, with the number of students who are coming,” said Mondesir, who as a staff member has been involved with every year’s event. “I have had so much outreach from alumni and I’m looking forward to seeing them, and to seeing what the kids can produce. I am always amazed at the things they are able to show us.”
Mondesir said BHS graduate Edward King (DJ E-Nyce) will be handling musical production, and fellow graduate Danae Bucci also hopes to stop by. Bucci, a reporter for television station WCVB, was the guest speaker at last month’s Middle School Tenacity Challenge.
Sumner, the guest speaker, grew up in Boston and graduated from Spelman College, a historically Black liberal arts college in Atlanta. In 2005 she was the subject of a documentary on METCO called “Far from Home.”
Mondesir offered thanks in advance to First Parish in Bedford and Phi Beta Sigma for financial support, Principal Heather Galante, the custodial staff, “and the community and the faculty members who will devote their day as volunteers to ensure that this competition goes off.”
He also thanked his fellow committee members: BHS teachers Patrick Morrissey and Kim Comeiro, former Bedford METCO Director Claire Jones, and former BHS Principal Henry Turner.