A More Inclusive Groton

Inclusion at Groton is an important topic emphasized by all members of our community. Groton is as intimate as a small school could be, yet it is still too easy for students to feel left out. Since last year, Groton has been making many efforts towards making the Circle a more welcoming place to anyone, no matter what their background may be.

One of the recent steps towards this shared goal took place on Monday, November 11th, through an all-school community gathering. All members of the Circle, including student, faculty, and staff met in the CPAC right after school. The event was created to address the lack of opportunities for the Groton community to gather due to our tight schedules. Many Sixth Formers at the beginning of the year expressed the need for these all-school occasions.

The meeting was also a part of Mr. Maqubela’s actions towards his mission to make the Circle a more inclusive place. “One of the goals that Mr. Maqubela and I brought to Groton was to build a community. We want to strengthen the cohesiveness. And one of the best ways to achieve that is through dialogue, because just knowing more about people makes us feel connected,” said Mrs. Maqubela.

At the meeting, all members of our community watched a twenty-minute TED Talk by novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie called “The Danger of a Single Story.” In her TED Talk, she uses the personal story of her life to stress the importance of hearing others’ stories in order to fully understand who they are. This clip was chosen by the Diversity and Inclusion Committee because so many students at Groton can relate to Adichie  since they have many stories of their own to share.

After the TED Talk, the students were broken up into smaller groups to discuss their reactions to this video as well as to share their  story with  others in the group. “By breaking up into smaller groups [members of our community] will be able to share their story. Who are they? Because we are so busy, we often fail to fully know the people we are around. Hopefully, through this experience, we will get to know each other as individuals,” said Mrs. Sen-Das, a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

The group is composed of trustees and faculty. The faculty task force includes Mrs. Sen-Das, Mrs. Maqubela, Ms. Bradley, Ms. Hughes, Ms. Stewart, Mr. O’ Donnell, Mr. Pomeroy, and Mr. Dixon; the committee was formed about a year ago.

The committee’s mission is to produce a strategic vision for diversity and inclusion. In the meetings they hold every two weeks, the committee reviews both existing and potential programs and organizations related to issues concerning diversity and inclusion. From this, it hopes to identify where and how diversity and equity issues are addressed at Groton, what resources are needed, and possible opportunities for more effective coordination.

In the past, the committee employed EdChange, an educational consulting agency, to conduct a climate survey on diversity at Groton. They also met with the VIth Form to heighten their sensitivity concerning inclusion and respect at Groton. The committee received much help from former Groton faculty and educational consultant Derrick Gay to implement the survey findings, conduct strategic planning and working with VIth Formers.

During that meeting, the Sixth Formers watched a section of “The Danger of a Single Story,” and were asked to complete an online survey about their reaction to the clip as well as its connection to Groton, such as similar examples and stereotypes. Other activities included writing four words that they were offended by and sharing it with others. “It was a really eye-opening experience for the seniors,” said Mr. Dixon, who attended this leadership meeting, “The activities made you self-aware and other people aware of issues about inclusion around the Circle.”

The Diversity and Inclusion Committee stresses the importance of the participation of the student body, and especially stresses the need for the Sixth Form to take a lead in creating a more inclusive environment. For example, even at the community gathering, the committee wished that the group discussion will be mostly student-led. The Sixth Formers, already once trained through their leadership sessions, were expected to lead the conversations while the faculty was there mainly to support the students.

According to Mrs. Maqubela, the seniors also helped during the planning of this event by discussing it during several Parlors. Mrs. Maqubela said, “This meeting involved a lot of the seniors’ input. As Mr. Maqubela continuously stresses, Sixth Formers are important in leading these initiatives, because they are the leaders of our community.” She also pointed out that the committee should seriously consider having Sixth Formers on its board.

Looking towards the future, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee hopes to plan more occasions that are similar to the community gathering on the 11th. As for now, there are more community gatherings scheduled in February, April, and May. However, the committee hopes to use the responses from Monday’s gathering to help with other events that will bring our community closer together.

The staff apologizes for a previous mistake in Mr. Gay’s name and his role in the diversity initiative, made in the November issue.

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