The Inclusivity, Diversity, Education and Affinity (IDEA) student group works to bring programming and education to the entire Upper School community. It is led by seniors Mary Grace McGann, Kenna Wong, Nick Pakis, Xixi Hillman, Reshma Niraula, Banner Robinson, and Joaquin Castro-Balbi and advised by Director of Community Engagement and Inclusion Nicole Masole. Last year’s January 2021 inaugural conference was a springboard for the group to gauge interest and begin to set the focus for further programming.
The group began Saturday morning by setting community norms that would guide the day and decided on four: lean into discomfort, respect, listen, and maintain confidentiality. Each participant knew their sharing would be supported and celebrated by all members of the group and that no person or class of persons are diminished when discussing diversity, inclusion, FWCD’s inclusivity statement, and belonging.
Gathered Together: To Share, Challenge, Learn and Grow
They learned the importance of building meaningful connections. They took time to celebrate with one another. They learned the importance of sharing their story. They learned that alumni stand ready to support them. They learned to listen. At the IDEA (Inclusivity, Diversity, Education and Affinity) conference on Saturday, September 18, approximately 30 Upper School students, faculty and staff, and alumni came together to share, challenge, learn and grow.
The first event: an insightful panel discussion with four members of AFFIRM (Alumni Falcons Fostering Inclusion, Respect and Multiculturalism) who shared their experiences as students at FWCD and offered advice to the students present on ways to engage their peers and alumni in supporting them.
Masole moderated the discussion with questions focused on how FWCD and the students and teachers present could continue to foster meaningful connections among members of the broader School community. Alumni panelists were Edgar Araiza ’03, Brooke Baumgardner ’06, Levi Buchanan ’11, and Ricky Rodriguez ’14.
Following the panel discussion, the activity portion of the day began. IDEA student leaders led several activities meant to find connections. First up was a web activity popular with LINK Crew, where participants stand in a circle and toss a ball of string to those in which they have something in common. They then broke into small groups to find further commonalities.
Art projects were next. Each small group was given a bag of materials, and they had to recreate a picture of FWCD Falcon mascot, Talon, on a piece of posterboard, utilizing only the materials in their bag. Some bags had regular pencils, some markers, some colored pencils, etc.
Middle School Spanish Teacher Debby Arnold said she “appreciated the multigenerational conversations” that came from the next activity, as participants formed groups with those they hadn’t been in any groups prior. Each person wrote out a personal timeline of significant events in their lives.
In the second half of the day, students and faculty were given the opportunity to share their cultural identity, heritage, family history and more in a celebration fair. Participants brought photos, scrapbooks, clothes, baskets of candy, books, and other items that reflected their story and background, and they provided descriptions of their items. With music playing in the background, participants walked around to each table and left sticky notes of encouragement and affirmation for each person.
“The people [at the conference] were deeply engaged, and that’s what we were hoping for, engagement,” Robinson said. “We had some good bonding, and now moving forward, we hope for even more involvement and togetherness on a bigger scale.”
Masole added, “When our IDEA leaders proposed the theme, ‘Connections and Community’, I was immediately excited and inspired. Building community, uplifting the School’s mission and core values, and living our inclusivity statement are so important because it fosters a greater sense of belonging for all in the FWCD community. I cannot wait to create more of these opportunities for our entire community.”