Pathways to Leadership, MoCAA Project highlight NYSUT commitment to diversity, equity


he application window for the NYSUT Pathways to Leadership program is officially open. Offered through the NYSUT Social Justice department, the new initiative aims to support NYSUT members of color who are interested in taking on leadership roles within their union, workplace or community. The program was introduced at the inaugural meeting of the NYSUT Members of Color Affinity and Action Project, held virtually in September. The MoCAA Project and the Pathways to Leadership program are NYSUT’s latest efforts to highlight racial equity and social justice.


“The NYSUT Pathways to Leadership program is designed to support members as they work toward these goals,” said NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer J. Philippe Abraham, whose office coordinates social justice initiatives for the statewide union. “With a roster of four trainings, including an NEA Minority Leadership Training in Baltimore, it’s a demanding program. However, it’s a unique opportunity for participants to access a wealth of information and learn from experts.”

The project takes participants through a series of meetings, reflections, readings and discussions over the course of the year. Program content will be based on the interests and needs participants identify in their first meeting, so the work is tailored to individual goals.

The NYSUT Pathways to Leadership program will culminate with a leadership project and mentorship opportunities. The program begins Nov. 17–19 with an initial convening at NYSUT headquarters.

“My goal is to create a space where everyone feels seen, heard and valued,” said Abraham. At the September MoCAA event, organizers used online polls to gauge participant’s views on diversity and equity to shape future agendas. It featured a diverse slate of members and a keynote by Sheryl Lee Ralph, star of ABC’s comedy series “Abbott Elementary.” Abraham encouraged members to share their workplace experiences as professionals and as unionists of color in New York’s public schools, universities and hospitals.

“My experience has been exhausting because we are the representatives,” said Idalia Torres, UUP Fredonia, one of nearly 200 MoCAA participants. “Campuses do a lot of recruiting but don’t provide a lot of support [for people of color] … I probably wouldn’t have stayed in the profession this long without the help of my union.”

In her remarks Ralph urged participants to show up, participate and get involved, explaining that owing to the lack of diversity in their profession, not doing so will lead to professionals of color being overlooked and forgotten. She cited her love for the character she portrays on “Abbott Elementary.”

“I am forever grateful for being able to speak up … in my small way, for teachers and the sacrifices that so many of you continue to make,” she said. “I want to thank all of New York’s teachers for their service … know that you are so important.”

For information about the NYSUT Pathways to Leadership program, email nysut.org/mocca.

illustration of minimalist portraits of people of color with text that reads: Embracing our Diversity, Celebrating out Unity