Inspired by the experiences of students, alumni, faculty, and staff, a generous alumni family decided they wanted to actively support a framework for greater equity at GFS and contributed a $1.9 million gift to help address the school’s Actions for Equity plan priorities of increasing diversity and building a truly affirming environment. Recognizing the impact that André Robert Lee '89 has made over the past 30 years, dedicating his life to exploring and fostering dialogue, supporting students of color, and inspiring storytelling and understanding through film making, the gift has been named in his honor—the André Robert Lee Fellowship.
The innovative Fellowship combines a new endowed fund with a mission-driven program. In addition to covering tuition and ancillary costs for up to four Upper School students per year, the Fellowship aims to build strong affinity for the Fellows and their families within the school community and provide the support needed for success—during the academic year and beyond graduation. Stewarded by the school’s Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Charla Okewole, together with Assistant Director of Upper School Jackie Dawson, the program offers Fellows access to workshops and conferences, leadership opportunities, mentorship with professionals related to fields of interest, and the option to design and implement a social-justice capstone project. Focused programming and gatherings will be offered to participating parents, caregivers, and families, while speakers focused on justice, identity, and equality will be presented to the full GFS community—with the goal to empower all students to build inclusive spaces.
“This Fellowship will help move important goals of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion forward in meaningful, direct, and new ways,” said Okewole. “We honor the cultural competencies brought to GFS by the Fellows while providing them a foundation to establish academic success, build positive identity, develop leadership within the community, and establish relationships that will help to sustain their success over their lifetime.”
Lee is a current film teacher at GFS and an internationally acclaimed writer and producer. His work includes The Prep School Negro, in which Lee shares his experience as a Black student at an independent school with local and national audiences. He has produced a number of award winning films, including the documentary I’m Not Racist…Am I?, Virtually Free—the story of incarcerated youth in Richmond, VA, and The Road to Justice, documenting Civil Rights tours Lee offers throughout the American South. He directed and produced an episode of CNN’s This is Life with Lisa Ling about the history of Violence in Chicago and shared a short film at Sundance 2022. Currently, Lee is developing a documentary series project with artists William and Steven Ladd and is working in pre-production on a new television project. Lee regularly leads sessions at GFS and other schools about justice, identity, and building inclusive communities.
“We continue to hold up the vital work of ensuring that GFS, and other independent schools, are welcoming, affirming educational homes. With the leadership of our donors, André, Charla, Jackie, faculty, staff, and our students, we are experiencing meaningful change that aligns with our Quaker values and mission—to celebrate the unique light in each person,” said Dana Weeks, Head of School at GFS. “I am pleased that the André Robert Lee Fellowship can serve as a model for how philanthropic leadership can support diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.”