Reflections on Diversity and Inclusion Day

By The Student Members of the YCDS Diversity Inclusion Club

This past March 14th, YCDS had it’s first Diversity and Inclusion Day! The YCDS Diversity and Inclusion Club planned all of the events for the middle and upper school. The day was  informational and the Diversity and Inclusion Club was made very proud. Starting the last week of January, our club began planning for the day. We dedicated an entire day in February to create a schedule and activities that catered and personalized to our student body. The student members created a mission statement  and geared all events in support of this statement:

YCDS Diversity and Inclusion Day will strive to create a culture that stands against discrimination and hurtful language by promoting a level of understanding, appreciation, empowerment, and education.  YCDS students will not simply tolerate, but advocate for inclusion and respect for all in our community and beyond.

It was a difficult process. Everybody had ideas. Students were encouraged to collaborate and had the freedom to challenge each other’s ideas. By the end of the day, great things had been accomplished, yet the club still had a long way to go. Throughout the remainder of February and up to the day of, we worked hard, in and out of school, to make sure we had a fun, but most importantly, to make sure we created an informative and inclusive day.

Our day started with smorgasboard of scones, donuts, pie (for pi day), and orange juice. This led into our opening ceremony. Students from grades 6th-12th were given ground rules by members of the Diversity and Inclusion Club. After this we went straight into our poster contest. Students were randomly divided into groups and given bags with undisclosed decorative items to create their poster. They presented their posters with their idea of diversity. The poster with the flashiest and most materials won. Doesn’t that seem unfair? But that is the situation that many people live with every day and it can be exhausting and deflating to constantly feel like you are swimming up stream.The lesson taken from our activity is that resources can be unevenly distributed causing an unfair disadvantage for some.

We were happy to welcome the Director of Intercultural Student Life and Global Programming at York College, Ms. Phillips Thomas-Hornbuckle as our keynote speaker. Ms. Thomas led our affinity groups. An affinity group is an activity based on interest, common goals, and personal traits. The purpose of the affinity groups was to recognize our differences, our similarities, and to embrace them. After the affinity groups, Diversity and Inclusion Club member, Chanel Quashie, led students through a short activity meant to reveal the power of making assumptions. This activity showed everyone that assumptions are not always correct; an innocent assumption has the power to lead to misunderstanding.

We then separated into upper and middle school groups to participate in age- appropriate activities. Upper school participated in an interactive activity focusing on  how it feels to be confronted with discrimination; the use of real-life scenarios helped guide everyone to this goal. Ms. Thomas helped guide the students though a processing discussion following this activity.

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Middle school participated in two activities which allowed them to explore and embrace their difference and similarities. The first activity was a collaborative puzzle, in which each student wrote a descriptor about themselves on a puzzle piece. When students were finished with their descriptors, they were challenged to work together to connect their pieces which eventually formed a greyhound. The message this activity conveyed is that although we are all molded by our unique experiences, we all connect to each other in some way and are stronger when we support each other. Students then proceeded to take part in an activity named Diversity Beans. In this activity students were given different color jelly beans, and when asked to eat them, they realized the color of the jelly bean did not match the taste. This taught them to not judge a book by its cover.  Although it is cliche, it is still an important lesson to learn.

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Before lunch, upper school students took a break by participating in a Zumba class which was led by the lower school Spanish teacher, Mrs.Pflaum. We listened to music and danced away. This helped the students re-energize, connect, and experience multicultural music and dance.

The afternoon was spent in mixed groups, middle school meeting in grade groups, and upper school in mixed groups led by facilitators from YCP. The afternoon offered a time for students to delve into those discussions that can sometimes feel difficult, but are ultimately crucial if we are going to understand and support each other. We thank the YCP facilitators and middle school advisors for offering a safe, supportive environment for us to better understand what it feels like to walk in another’s shoes.

Going into the day, the Diversity and Inclusion Club was prepared, excited, and honestly, nervous. This was a day to focus on inclusion, empathy, and understanding. When the day concluded with ice cream and fellowship, we knew we had been successful. There were hugs, laughs, and support for the day from our classmates. Thank you to everyone who helped us as we created this event. It has been a very rewarding experience.