Local students work towards inclusion
On Nov. 15, at the University of Richmond, students from every grade, race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation gathered and joined each other to open a dialogue about both what it means to share and to listen.
While eight Godwin students were in attendance, surrounding schools such as Henrico High School, Chesterfield High School, Richmond City High School, and private institutions also participated. For Godwin, it was a first. These students were chosen based on the recommendations of both administrators and counselors.
Diversity Day serves “to increase high school youth’s sensitivity to and awareness of diversity issues so that they can create school and community environments free from the distractions of prejudice, stereotypes, and bigotry.”
They broke down into groups with the theme “Power in Story” in mind. By sharing their stories, students opened channels of communication with their peers, breaking down cultural, institutional, and personal stereotypes as they did so.
“A lot of the small group discussion revolved around individual stories, comfort in sharing school, and pros and cons from personal sharing experience,” said school counselor Juliana Schatz.
Diversity Day also brought up personal roles in storytelling, namely, Story Teller, Listener, or Connector. Students looked at their role in the dialogue. Story Tellers like sharing and communicating their experiences. Listeners prefer to listen and learn from others’ stories. Connectors encapsulate both roles by listening and then relating it to their own lives.
“I didn’t really know what to expect when we got to Diversity Day, but once I got there, I really appreciated their focus on each person being comfortable in telling their story and the importance on spreading it. I met people from all over Henrico County, and it was really interesting to see how their experiences or stories differed from mine,” said senior Guadalupe Pinto.
Discussion also centered around bringing diversity and acceptance into schools. Students brainstormed about how to apply concepts like equality to everyday situations.
“I learned that I value and accept diversity more than a lot of things in my life. Diversity is what helps humans see the world from different perspectives. Being able to go to Diversity Day truly was an experience unlike any other. I learned how to accept diversity and then take matters into my own hands,” said senior Michael Whitty.
The program was put on by the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, which seeks to move Virginia towards tolerance and inclusion by facing society’s issues. The center’s core values celebrate inclusion, integrity, effectiveness, relevance, and openness.
“The students who participated felt it was valuable and would love to have a larger scale program at Godwin for all the students,” said Schatz.