Guess who’s back?: Former ARS teacher Pamela Mathai surprises students in Real Talk meeting


Real Talk suggestion box. Photo by Lauren Breach.

Real Talk is an organization that focuses on educating the ARS community on social issues and amplifying youth voices through educational dialogue and respect. The organization came to be two years ago after Ms. Pamela Mathai, a former social studies teacher, spoke to students weekly about issues surrounding race that impacted them. Originally, the group was started to discuss what injustices black students were facing, and as the group progressed Real Talk shaped to be both more inclusive and intersectional.

After sponsoring the organization for two years, Ms. Mathai had an emotional departure to pursue educating a different demographic of private school students on social issues and activism that she believes is essential to life. Ms. Mathai is now an English teacher at St. Andrews and brought the Real Talk mission with her by reading texts that focus on social justice issues.

“I find the work here rewarding because my colleagues are very supportive,” Ms. Mathai said. “The students are interested in learning about these issues and have great discussions, just like my students from Ann Richards did.”

In a celebratory last meeting of the 2018 school year, Ms. Mathai made a surprise visit to the regular members of Real Talk and came together over juice and cookies to discuss where they saw Real Talk next year, what needs to change within the program, and how they were successful this year. After about ten minutes after the meeting started, Mathai surprised the members and joined in their discussion.

The group continued to talk about what the future of Real Talk would look like, and why they found it valuable to continue. Mathai gave suggestions and shared some of her new experiences while catching up with the members.

The current board is made up of Kaia Newton (9), Kai Bovik (11), Lauren Breach (11) who will be returning, and Alyssa Cerda (12), Frida Parra-Captián (9) who will be leaving next year. The board is responsible for funding, budgeting, planning, and advertising for Real Talk. The board will welcome new members, Camille Pfister (9) and Maria Noonan (9) who will be joining in the upcoming year.

“Being a regular attendee made me feel really safe and comfortable [at Real Talk],” Noonan said. “I want to bring in new ideas, new thoughts, new concepts, new speakers. I want to add more to the learning aspect of Real Talk, I want it to be even more of an educational place.”

The group is excited to finalize plans over the summer and to allow the organization to continue growing into the next year.