With open-mindedness and respect, Corbett Prep Middle School students explored the topics of diversity and inclusivity together at a special forum designed to encourage reflection and conversation.
The Diversity and Global Awareness initiative raised thought-provoking questions and introduced students to new perspectives relating to religious, racial, country of origin, ethnic background and gender differences in the 21st Century.
Students sat with their multi-grade advisory groups in the Middle School gym on Oct. 15 to hear powerful stories and learn from others' experiences to gain knowledge and develop empathy and understanding.
Social Studies teacher Adrian Barnes, who organized the event, has been working with a volunteer diversity committee at Corbett Prep made up of teachers and parents. They planned the diversity seminar to spark honest, meaningful conversations to create an awareness of issues and life experiences in the greater community.
"We want to help you understand differences by having an open dialogue in respectful interactions with your classmates," Barnes told the students at the beginning of the day.
Encouraging Global Awareness
Part of Corbett Prep's philosophy is to foster each child's capacity for learning and help students grow morally, spiritually and emotionally as well as physically and intellectually. The diversity initiative was designed to prepare students to develop confidence as leaders and prepare them for the future as globally minded citizens.
Students had time for solo reflection and small group discussions throughout the morning. They eased into the tougher topics, first sharing what made them unique – nicknames, family traditions, sports they played, music they liked. Teachers then broadened the conversation to prompt students to think about commonalities and how better to understand others.
A panel discussion with parents Carmyn Samuel and Zeina Benni opened up other avenues for discussion as they spoke frankly about their experiences.
Together they represented race, religion, country of origin and ethnic differences through their presentations.
Middle School Student Reflections
Students afterward said they appreciated the bravery the speakers showed in sharing their personal stories.
One eighth-grade girl said in learning what others have experienced, they could learn how to be more accepting and build a stronger community. Another student said it reminded him that although someone may seem different from you on the outside, you may turn out to have much in common.
Corbett Prep Board of Trustees President Jim Conlin praised the diversity initiative for equipping students with skills that will serve them through school and into the workplace.
"It's so valuable," Conlin said. "It's learning to respect and work with people of different origins, from different cultures, and value what each of us have to offer. When we do that, we all get better, and we all grow."