People often assume they can look at pictures of our students and tell whether or not Oldfields is a “diverse” school. While appearance can give some indication, admitting students from different ethnic backgrounds and varied geographies is really just the beginning. To truly be a diverse community, where all different types of thought are explored, beliefs are debated, and differences accepted, it takes constant effort and dedication. That is where the Diversity Committee, led by math teacher Christine Gilmore, comes in.
The Diversity Committee consists of both students and faculty members who meet regularly to brainstorm ways to increase inclusivity at the school. For example, when the diversity committee reviewed the results of their all-school diversity climate survey, they discovered that students don’t just want to see presentations about diversity -- they want to participate in discussions with each other about diversity. Thus the concept of the All-school diversity talks was born.
For this activity, each student chose three TED talks to view. The talks covered subjects such as stereotypes, dyslexia, race relations, socioeconomics, self-image, sexual orientation, and religion. After watching the videos, the girls engaged in small group discussions based on a list of thought provoking questions. The students’ openness and engagement was inspirational.
The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Adiachie, a Nigerian novelist quickly cut right to the heart of issue facing us – the danger of seeing any group of people as one dimensional, believing that a stereotype applies to all in the group. She shares misconceptions of the western view of Africans she encountered when she came to the US – the fallacy that everyone is poor, violent, and uneducated.
A high school student ahares her reading and memory challenges in Overcoming Dyslexia, Finding Passion. Her description of the inaccurate perceptions that haunted her throughout elementary school hit home for many of our students. Her success in high school, when she discovered her creative genius, and her acceptance in to the college program of her choice, was uplifting.
The 50 Shades of Gay showcased one photographer’s attempt to humanize those who identify themselves as neither completely straight nor completely gay. Her hope is that the humanity in each of us gained by contemplating these simple black and white portraits will lead to empathy andto a place where sexuality becomes a non-issue, a place where we are all just people.
Another popular session, The Mirror, addressed self-image. Two teen activists shared their story of how they (along with 86,000 signatures) convinced Seventeen Magazine to post at least one untouched photo per edition.
Feedback from our girls on the workshops was extremely positive, and the leadership demonstrated by the students who headed the discussions was inspiring. The last question in each session was “What did we learn today that will make OS stronger?” Nice job, DC!