Alumnae Spotlight: Tahana Augustin ’16

Alumnae Spotlight: Tahana Augustin, Class of 2016

People are like chemical compounds, complex combinations of atoms and molecules forged by their experiences and environment. In the words of Carl Gustav Jung, “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” Tahana Augustin personifies this. Her experiences transformed her into a purposeful & empathetic woman and recently enabled her to encourage Holy Child to focus efforts on creating a diverse & inclusive community. And, literally speaking, she cultivated a love for chemistry which is guiding her career path today.

As a young child, Tahana nurtured her curiosity by conducting experiments with household items and cooking ingredients. Tahana continued to tinker with chemistry in classes taught by Helen Place. Ms. Place gave Tahana true support, which was transformative for Tahana, boosting her confidence and interest in chemistry. This led her to graduate from Penn State University (Class of 2020) with a degree in Chemical Engineering. She is now studying Biochemistry in a post-baccalaureate program and plans to combine her fascination with skin and joy of helping others into a Dermatology career.

Her college experience transformed her further. Tahana befriended students of many ethnicities and religious backgrounds. This experience emphasized what she already knew to be true: diversity is essential to enriching our perspective on life and empathy for others.

After the senseless murders of George Floyd, Ahmed Arbuary and Breonna Taylor and countless other Black Americans, Tahana was disheartened and enraged. She noted organizations and leaders vowing specific actions to fight racism and foster inclusivity. Tahana expected Holy Child to outline an action plan to create a diverse & inclusive community. When this didn’t happen, she wondered if others were feeling similarly dismayed.

She shared this sentiment on Instagram and was astounded by the response: a flood of messages from alumnae of color expressing similar feelings and painful memories at Holy Child about microaggressions and unconscious bias. The stories fueled her into action.

Tahana contacted the Head of School, Shannon Gomez and urged her to engage in listening sessions with students and alumnae. Hearing the stories first-hand was a wake up call for the school. Tahana’s courage ignited the school to meet our mantra, Actions Not Words and create this year’s commitment to engender inclusivity, equity, and diversity on campus.

Change, whether social or chemical, is always brought about by a catalyst. Our community is indebted to Tahana’s courage. Now, we all must do the daily work to hold ourselves and Holy Child accountable in creating a safe & inclusive environment and celebrate our differences.

What was one of the most impactful moments in your Holy Child career?

"One of the most impactful moments I’ve had at Holy Child was getting the chance to tutor children at the National Center for Children and Families (NCCF) in Bethesda, MD. The center is dedicated to vulnerable youth and families of the DC Metropolitan Area. They serve to provide them with a healthy living environment, as they find ways to prosper in our society. Though coming from different backgrounds, these children and I were able to find common ground. I loved that I was not only able to boost their academic confidence, but to be someone they looked forward to seeing and getting to know a few times out of the week. This opportunity given to me by Holy Child made me realize that I have a love for serving others."

Looking back on your conversations this year with Black alumnae, what are a few things you are most hopeful that Holy Child will improve over the next few years?

“There are a few matters I wish my alma mater would refine over the course of the next few years, such as enforced disciplinary actions, revamped mental health resources (especially for the Black students and other students of color), and an overall sense of transparency when communicating with those who make up our community. However, none of these issues can be put into effect without resolving the biggest one of all: improving the community’s overall diversity palette so that the longing for acceptance and inclusion ceases to exist. A trend that I noticed when speaking to Black alumnae was that we were all one out of [insert a number less than ten here] Black girls in our year. This is an ongoing trend of seemingly more than 10-15 years! I would like to see an increase in these numbers, not only within the students, but among the teachers who interact with these girls on a daily basis and the school’s Board of Trustees as they are entrusted to use their judgment to make sound decisions for the better of the school. I need Holy Child to come to the realization that the more diversity implemented in an institution, the better said institution becomes. As the saying goes, “two heads are better than one,” and for too long, the school has operated in a fashion where the set regime seems to benefit one particular part of their community rather than the whole. Once Holy Child successfully diversifies all parts of their community and starts to mirror the look of the world as opposed to the look of their immediate surroundings, I am certain that they will reach their goal of becoming an institution that can pride itself on being a place where all are welcome, listened to, loved, and appreciated!"

What advice or encouragement would you impart on Black students and students of color at Holy Child today?

"There seems to be this unwritten rule in high school, a status quo if you will, that encourages homogeneity in the way the young women express themselves. It enables the pretense that justifies the more one deviates from the “norm”, the less accepted one is. I wish to give the young Black women, along with the young women of color, advice that goes against this credence, advice I wish I had followed when I was a high school student attending Holy Child. No one’s narrative is the same, so do not let anyone dictate how you should write yours. Above all else, be unapologetically yourself and embrace all that you are. I noticed the more I tapped into the part of myself I repressed for so long, the happier and more confident I became. Uplift yourself, love yourself, stand up for yourself (because no one else will do it for you in the same way you can)! You won’t regret it."

Written by: Elisabeth Warren '08

Do you know of a Holy Child alumna with an interesting career, service project, or hobby that we should spotlight? Send suggestions to alumnews@holychild.org!