I had the chance last week to return to the National Association of Independent Schools’ (NAIS) People of Color Conference (POCC). I last attended when the conference was in Tampa, Florida, in 2015. In 2015, in addition to two faculty members and the six Upper School students, who were invited to the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC), I was joined by then Board member, parent and current Falcon Inclusion Team (FIT) member (and still parent!) Rosalind Evans
, for the three-day conference addressing the experiences of people of color in independent schools across the country. Last year, while none of our students could attend SDLC (seats were limited), several faculty were joined by Board member, alumna, parent and FIT member Mary Hallman Smith ’03
for the conference in Seattle, Washington. POCC and SDLC, as part of the same NAIS gathering, have stellar reputations for helping independent schools with their various initiatives aimed at being more inclusive communities.
Our own Falcon Inclusion Team that Mary and Rosalind are both a part of evolved out of the group of parents who, in August 2017, joined a group of FWCD faculty and administrators in a two-day conference known as Courageous Conversations. Meant to be an advisory board of sorts, FIT is a small group of parents covering all three divisions of the School, that, in addition to other work, plans events for the larger FWCD community. Last year, they were responsible for the Together We’re Better
back-to-school picnic with a purpose, a multicultural cooking event
for new families hosted by and prepared alongside alumnus, parent and chef Jon Bonnell ’89
, and had planned a kite-flying celebration on campus that had to be postponed during our fourth quarter at home (but that might be our first event when the campus opens up again).
The FIT group’s first-quarter meeting of 2020-21 included time with FWCD’s long-term Director of Programming for Breakthrough Fort Worth, Nicole Masole
, in her newly created additional role as FWCD’s first Community Engagement and Inclusion Coordinator
Nicole also served as the School’s delegation leader for this year’s POCC and SDLC involvement. While virtual this year, the conference nonetheless brought together students and adult community members from NAIS’s more than 3,000 member schools. In the wake of this summer’s experiences with Instagram and other social media outpourings by students and alumni at schools across the country, including by our own FWCD community members, much of the work of the POCC and SDLC gatherings directly addressed those challenges. We always learn a great deal from comparing experiences with the wide variety of cultures and communities represented by NAIS. This year’s POCC and SDLC were no exception.
At FWCD, some of those social media postings this summer generated conversations for me with some of the School’s alumni. Patrick Powers ’05
, the School’s Alumni Relations Manager, has met with Nicole Masole and several alumni throughout the fall, considering important next steps. One of the results of their work is an FWCD alumni group to direct various efforts on behalf of students, families, and alumni of color in our community. To be known as AFFIRM (Alumni Falcons Fostering Inclusion, Respect and Multiculturalism), the group is currently finalizing its bylaws and looks forward to working with the larger Alumni Association Board on initiatives, including formal and informal mentoring of our current students and a forum for open dialogue between the School and alumni of color.
All of this work is in keeping with the Inclusivity Statement our Board of Trustees adopted with unanimous approval in January 2018, a commitment that evolved directly out of our highly valued collection of FWCD core values.