Border Crossers is meeting a critical need for racial justice work in New York City schools.

New York is ranked the third most segregated school system the country[1] despite the diversity that we boast. A study from the National Center for Education Statistics reveals that 70.9% of the city’s students would have to relocate to another school in order for the racial composition of their school to match that of the city. De facto school segregation impacts the distribution of funding and resources among schools. Nationwide, schools spent $334 more on every white student than on every nonwhite student in 2011-12.[2]

Since the landmark Brown v. Board decision in 1954, American schools have been plagued with monoculturalism. In New York, students of color make up 49% of the population while teachers of color are only 13% of the teaching force.[3] Dominant educational policies and pedagogies are constructed by a largely white, middle-class, female teaching body and exclude non-dominant perspectives and values, which is harmful to all students in the system, although disproportionately so to black boys in early childhood education.[4] The impact of these policies can be seen in data capturing graduation rates, representation in special education, punitive school policies, and performance on standardized tests.

Children see and experience this racial inequality. As infants, children recognize racial differences among adults.[5] By age four, American children group people by race over gender and other identifiers.[6] By the time they enter kindergarten, children express an explicit white bias.[7] Despite the fact that research consistently shows that taking a “colorblind” or “colormute” approach does not yield race-neutral opinions in children,[8] teachers do not receive adequate training or support in how to address these issues with young children. Moreover, there are not groups organize teachers to hold schools, districts and policy-makers accountable for equitable outcomes for all students. Across the board, teachers express experiencing negative consequences when they try to organize and take action against institutional racism in their schools.

Border Crossers is here to help!

[1] Fessenden, Ford. New York City’s public schools are among the most segregated in the country. 2012. Infographic., New York City. Web. 1 Sep 2012.

[2] Spatig-Amerikaner, Ary. “Federal Loophole Enables Lower Spending on Students of Color.” Center for American Politics. 22 Aug 2012: Web. 1 Sep. 2012.

[3] Boser, Ulster. Teacher Diversity Matters: A State-by-State Analysis of Teachers of Color. Center for American Politics. Nov 2011. Web. 1Sep 2012.

[4] Hayes, Edward. “White female teachers and black male students: Kunjufu and me.” Chicago Public Education Examiner. 5 Dec 2009. Web. 1 Sept 2012.

[5] Katz, Phyllis A. (2003). Racists or tolerant multiculturalists? How do they begin?American Psychologist58(11), 897-909.

[6] Winkler, Erin (2009). Children are not colorblind: how young children learn race. PACE, 3(3).

[7] Clark, Kenneth B. and Clark, Mamie K. (1939). The development of consciousness of self and the emergence of racial identification in Negro preschool children. Journal of Social Psychology, S.P.S.S.I. Bulletin10, 591-599. Study replicated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360.

[8] Bronson, Po and Ashley Merryman. “See Baby Discriminate.” Newsweek Magazine. 4 Sep 2009.


Mission and History

Our Name

Our name is inspired by the Critical Multiculturalist Henry Giroux, who said,

“Schools (should) become places where students and teachers can become border crossers engaged in critical and ethical reflection about what it means to bring a wider variety of cultures into dialogue with each other.”

Border Crossers’ mission is to equip New York City’s elementary school teachers to be leaders of racial justice in their schools and communities. In order to be effective educators, teachers need tools for understanding the role of race and racism in schools and entering into meaningful conversations about diversity and equity with students from a young age. We believe that training and supporting teachers in racial justice work is a critical step in creating culturally-responsive, equitable learning environments that will better serve NYC’s diverse student population.

Border Crossers was founded in 2001 with a program model that brought small groups of students together from racially segregated schools for cross-cultural exchange and discussions about prejudice, discrimination and social justice. There were many successes of this student-centered program over its 10 years of operation. However, evaluations and observations indicated that most teachers and other school personnel lacked the tools to make sustainable changes in their school environments around awareness about race and diversity. We found that teachers wanted guidance in articulating and assessing their own attitudes and understandings about race.

In 2010 Border Crossers built on its nine years of experience working with teachers and developed a formal educator initiative, Talking About Race, to equip and empower teachers to engage in meaningful discussions about diversity and multiculturalism with their students. We successfully launched Talking About Race during the 2011-12 school year, training 85 teachers through a series of 4 citywide workshops in New York City. Response to the workshops has been overwhelmingly positive; our spring workshops were filled to capacity and 100% of participants surveyed indicated that the workshops were high-quality and beneficial to their practice in the classroom. Our trainings gained recognition in the New York Times article, “Why Don’t We Have Any White Kids?” (May 2012) and the Colorlines Article, “Here Are Easy Ways to Have Tough Talks With Kids About Race” (February 2012).

Since then, Border Crossers has worked with over 1,000 educators, partnered with over 12 schools and had a student impact of over 25,000 children!


Border Crossers Staff

BC website






Jaime-Jin Lewis
Executive Director

Jaime-Jin joined Border Crossers in 2010. She designs and leads workshops that engage diverse audiences of educators in conversations about race and structural racism and finding solutions for racial equity in schools. Areas of particular interest include race and gender, transracial adoption, and Asian American identities. In 2011, Jaime-Jin directed the launch of the “Talking About Race With K-5 initiative,” which has trained over 2,200 educators from over 75 schools nationally. Jaime-Jin has been cited in The New York Times, Colorlines, The Root and others. She has also been featured by RIISE, Unbound, I’m From Driftwood. She presents at conferences, including the National Conference on School Diversity, Facing Race 2012, National Black Child Development Institute Conference, NYCoRE, and NYSAIS. She was a 2013 Feast Fellow and sits on the Board of Scholarly and Community Advisors at the Brooklyn Historical Society’s “Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations” project. She hails from Charlottesville, Virginia and loves fermented foods.

Board of Directors

Board of Directors

Nadia Gomes, Chair
Associate Director of Strategy-Budget Operations,
Open Society Foundations

Sachi Feris
Founder, Border Crossers
Teacher, Brooklyn Friends School

Elizabeth Horton, Finance Committee Chair
Senior Fellow,
National Council for Research on Women

Natania Kremer
Director of Service Learning
Brooklyn Friends School

Megan McDonell, Communications Committee Chair
Senior Copywriter,

Rachelle Oribio, Fundraising Committee Chair
Entrepreneurship Trainer and Executive Relations,
Defy Ventures 

Christopher Persley
Diversity Consultant

David R. Rosas
Assistant Principal,
The Ethical Community Charter School

JoAnn Schneider
Nonprofit Management

Lori Taliaferro, Program Committee Chair
Executive Director of Policy and Practice Services,
New Leaders

National Advisory Board

Amy Ellenbogen
Crown Height Mediation Center

Kevin Feinberg
Associate Program Director,
New York Facing History and Ourselves

 Jane Bolgatz, Ph. D
Author, Talking Race in the Classroom and
Associate Professor of social studies education
Division of Curriculum and Teaching
Fordham University Graduate School of Education

Rachel Henes
Primary Prevention Specialist, Women’s Protection and Empowerment Technical Team
International Rescue Committee

Sherick Hughes, Ph. D
Author, Black Hands in the Biscuits Not in the Classroom,
Editor, The Evolving Significance of Race

Assistant Professor of Minority & Urban Education, University of Maryland

Lisa Kadin, J.D.

Pedro Noguera, Ph. D
Executive Director,
Metropolitan Center for Urban Education,
New York University

Alexis Rubin
Instructional Coach,
Launch Expeditionary Learning Charter School

Seth Freed Wessler
Senior Research Associate,
The Applied Research Center