Championing Racial Equity in Education with Inclusive Curricula

Daily Point of Light # 7837 Jun 19, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Saawan Duvvuri. Read his story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

Having seen firsthand a need in the classroom and working to find a solution, Saawan Duvvuri is making significant strides in advancing racial equity in education. As the founder and executive director of LiteratureDiversified, Saawan has spearheaded efforts to diversify school curricula and address race-based educational disparities in the United States and beyond. His dedication and leadership have transformed LiteratureDiversified into a global organization with a far-reaching impact.

“We’re a youth-led nonprofit that works to diversify curricula in schools to create more equitable environments for underrepresented students,” Saawan explains. “We develop lesson plans across academic fields, like English and History, that retell lessons through the lenses of various marginalized groups. We focus a lot on Black, Asian, Latino, Hispanic, Native American and LGBTQ+, as well as women, sources.”

Under Saawan’s leadership, LiteratureDiversified has achieved remarkable growth and impact, driven by a dedicated team of 340 student members and volunteers spanning 36 states, 11 countries and 18 global chapters. This diverse and committed network has developed an impressive collection of over 450 educational resources, encompassing 55+ lesson plans, workshops, webinars and research collections. These resources are meticulously designed to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in education.

The organization’s DEI resources have been implemented in over 245 partner classrooms worldwide, directly teaching more than 11,270 students. This widespread adoption clearly indicates the effectiveness and relevance of LiteratureDiversified’s mission to create inclusive educational environments.

Saawan Duvvuri is the founder and executive director of LiteratureDiversified.

Additionally, the organization has successfully raised over $15,000, combining $6,500 in grant funding from reputable organizations like Prudential, Taco Bell and the Ashoka Foundation with $8,700 in grassroots fundraising efforts. This financial support has been crucial in sustaining and expanding LiteratureDiversified’s initiatives, ensuring continued progress in students receiving a more comprehensive and inclusive education.

“During my freshman year, in English class, we only read stories that centered around the experiences of European white men,” Saawan reflects. “We focused a lot on Euro-centric points of view, perspectives and history. The way that women and people of color were portrayed in those stories was always in subordination to these white men. It created a lot of cultural ignorance and reinforced stereotypes of male domination, Euro-supremacy and the power of colonization as a tool for white supremacy.”

Saawan also noticed an increase in disengagement among fellow students of color when the class was studying these stories. This was when he started reaching out to his contacts far and wide – including many students of color – with the idea of starting an organization addressing inequitable curricula in classrooms. The nonprofit was founded and quickly took off, with chapters established, members gained and materials created.

“Our goal is to bring stories from marginalized communities to the forefront. These narratives are crucial for fostering empathy and understanding among students,” Saawan says. “While AP European history is freely taught in every state across the country, the one course teaching AP African American studies has been banned all across Florida. That is dystopian. It shows how deeply racist our society still is.”

LiteratureDiversified’s initiatives are multifaceted, including the development of diverse curricula in U.S. History, Introductory English, and Financial Literacy. One notable project is the creation of a diverse Young Adult (Y.A.) Novel and Children’s Book list, which includes over 30 stories from marginalized and underrepresented authors. This initiative ensures that students have access to literature that reflects a variety of voices and experiences.

Saawan’s work with LiteratureDiversified has garnered significant recognition. The organization has been featured by NBC, Fox News, Yahoo Finance and Channel 5 News, achieving over 1.5 million impressions. LiteratureDiversified is also backed by prestigious entities like Prudential Emerging Visionaries, the Taco Bell Foundation, the Princeton Prize in Race Relations and the Ashoka Foundation.

“The most rewarding parts of this journey are being able to grow my team and establish such a strong community,” Saawan shares. “I like to say we’re a community focused on advocacy and racial equity, but we’re also really close. A lot of my best friends have been made through LiteratureDiversified.”

Through his unwavering commitment, Saawan and his team are making a lasting impact on education, addressing racial disparities in education as well as fostering a more inclusive and empathetic world. He encourages others to get involved with creating more equitable environments in their communities: “In spaces where historically we’ve had our rights taken, it’s so important that we enact change when we see an opportunity to do so. We need to enact positive change, especially in racial spheres. If we don’t fight for it, nobody else will.”

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Saawan? Find local volunteer opportunities.


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