The fourth annual Upper School Diversity Day on Friday, January 20, began with personal insight from faculty member Jeff Kirkman. He shared how embracing diversity had shaped him into the person (and Spanish teacher) he is today, and spoke to students and faculty about how accepting people different from us helps us to become better people.
Next, members of the student group “Leaders Empathetically Affecting Diversity” (LEAD) spoke about the role diversity has played in their lives. Their speeches ranged from experiences at diversity conferences to personal stories of parents' struggles and challenges, and from being targeted directly with stereotypes to sexual orientation and questions that surround sexuality. All students reinforced that Dexter Southfield is a safe community of caring individuals who make it a priority to accept all people.
Featured speaker Dr. Jennifer Bryan, Ph.D., founder and principal of Team Finch Consultants, spoke next about various types of diversity and engaged students in conversations about sexual orientation and identification. She discussed the fact that the School community identifies itself as "one family," and what that means for how we treat one another. Students reflected on the importance of that theme, and how it is present each day on campus.
Students then broke into three sessions of workshops, which consisted of discussions, interactive activities, and, in some cases, learning a new dance or two! In “Express Your Roots,” students learned two Armenian dances. In addition to a partner dance, called a Yarkhusht, Kevork Atinizian ’17 taught a group dance, also known as a Shourch Bar.
Another workshop, “Questioning, Questioning,” dealt with finding one’s identity. Students worked in pairs to ask and answer the simply-worded, yet complicated question: “Who are you?” In the first round, students could answer the question as they normally would. In the second round, students had to eliminate the use of people or group associations within their answers. For the final round, students had to find a new partner and were not able to say anything they had said in answers during the previous rounds.
Other student-led workshops included “Taste of SDLC,” a look into the Student Diversity Leadership Conference. Attendee Ryan Hernandez ’17 lead the workshop with exercises from the conference. Also, Rebecca Fulton ’19 led the “Humans of Dexter Southfield” workshop and, following the example of popular blog and book Humans of New York, conducted interviews with students to learn more about their backgrounds. Excerpts from the interviews, along with photos of the students, will be published over the course of the year in a new “Humans of Dexter Southfield” Twitter feed.
Many students gathered in the Clay Center Lecture Hall following the morning’s workshops to watch the 2017 Presidential Inauguration before Diversity Day closing ceremonies took place. The upper school reflected on all that was discussed throughout the day, and how our community can continue to use the lessons learned.