Student-led DEI work provides opportunities for learning, growth, and connection
by Sam Harris
Libraries Director and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Co-Coordinator
This academic year, new student-led diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives continue the work started by last year’s Upper School Student DEI team. The new inclusion statement, which states, “Charles Wright Academy best exemplifies its mission and values when everyone knows they belong in our school community,” was formally adopted by the CWA Board of Trustees in March 2020 and guides the work of the student team as they develop opportunities for their classmates to learn, grow, and connect.
In the fall Upper School student DEI team members worked together using Leadership+Design’s Design for Election Week curriculum (leadershipanddesign.org) to plan advisory and assembly experiences aimed at building our community’s ability to discuss issues across differences, particularly in the midst of a contentious general election season. The team also created a video that was shared with the school community, including our Lower School students, during a weekly Town Meeting.
In December Upper School students Nick B. ’21, Zoha A. ’22, Nawal A. ’24, Lily H. ’24, Aidan M.Q. ’23, and Caity O. ’22 attended the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Student Diversity Leadership Conference. The conference was an opportunity to learn from expert faculty and dynamic speakers and to connect with peers who, like them, are committed to increasing equity, inclusion, and justice on their independent school campuses. Students who participated brought back new ideas and are working together to build a network of student DEI leaders in the South Sound by reaching out to peers at other local schools to connect and to share ideas and knowledge. Elijah H. ’22 and Alyssa R. ’21 worked with peers from other schools to organize a one-day conference, Black Voices Empowered, that “creates a stage for the youth to have valuable interactions with black professionals.”
To build connection and community, the student DEI team, led by the current ASB Diversity and Inclusion Representative Nick B. ’21, hosted a cooking night in December, bringing together Tarriers both near and far to share their mutual love of delicious baked goods.
In January Middle School student Jeremy N. ’26 and his sister, Arianna N. ’19, interviewed their grandmother Gloria Rochelle about her participation in the Selma marches during the Civil Rights Movement. The annual all-school Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. remembrance assembly also included Upper and Middle School students sharing history, art, and poetry. As part of the program, all families, faculty, and staff were invited to submit videos sharing what Dr. King’s legacy means to them.
And at the beginning of March, Middle School students had a chance to hone leadership skills and connect with peers by participating in the Northwest Association of Independent Schools (NWAIS) Student Diversity Leadership Retreat. CWA’s participation in this regional program during the last few years has helped develop DEI leaders in both the Middle and Upper Schools and led to the creation of the Upper School student DEI team in 2019.
In addition to their work to build networks across schools, members of the DEI team, along with other student leaders, seek to improve the affinity and alliance group program on campus. Future efforts include connecting affinity and alliance groups in the Middle School with those in the Upper School, and looking for ways to include the Lower School students in this growing community program.