As she conducts her business from her office in New York, Rachel Barnard reflects back on the important role a teacher at St Aidan’s had on her life.
In the United States, Rachel is the founding executive director of Young New Yorkers, an organization that provides arts-based diversion programs to court-involved young people in Brooklyn. Rachel says that these young people aged 16 and 17 – tried in the New York Court system as adults – are given the chance to take responsibility for their actions while using art to give voice to their experiences and hopes for the justice system. All of this rather than doing jail time or incurring other adult sanctions.
It is this abiding sense of empathy and justice that was first meaningfully engaged when Rachel was in Year 10.
“I was incredibly inspired by our English teacher, Mrs Youatt-Pine. She chose a subject concerning prejudice and asked us, as a group, to come up with a definition. As a bunch of 15 year old students we came up with the phrase ‘judgement before knowledge’ which I think was pretty insightful.”
Rachel says that “it was through this subject and the reading list that Mrs Youatt-Pine gave us that expanded my empathy and had me realize the importance of people connecting to each others’ stories. Even today there are books on that Year 10 list which I remember and I often reflect on their importance.”