DIVERSITY is defined as differences among people with respect to age, class, ethnicity, gender, physical and mental ability, race, spiritual practice, and other human characteristics.
What is diversity at Dominican? Diversity is looking around the classroom and seeing girls of different races and cultures. Diversity is feeling safe surrounded by the girls in the Dominican community. Diversity is uniting and accepting everyone, no matter their differences.
One way Dominican promotes diversity is through the Students for Human Dignity and Diversity in Action student organization. This organization, introduced in 2018, spreads the message and importance of diversity at Dominican. Moderated by Ms. Vallerie Maurice (‘78) and Dr. Maureen Wright, the organization educates and empowers students to embrace the differences in the Dominican community.
To help spread its message, the organization has student diversity trainers who assist the Unity in Diversity Initiative by conducting diversity seminars for each grade. During these seminars, diversity trainers teach important skills such as how to be allies to fellow students and how to embrace and encourage diversity in the Dominican community as well as the larger community. “We want all students to possess the skill set to maneuver different environments,” said Ms. Maurice. “We want to teach them how to have a true and calm dialogue about diversity issues.”
The organization leaders chose to hold the seminars in small sessions; students work together within their homeroom groups. “The smaller sessions create a safer space and make girls comfortable in discussion,” said sophomore Elana Perriott, president of Students for Human Dignity and Diversity in Action.
Discussion is an important part of learning to embrace diversity. According to Ms. Maurice, a goal for this program is to teach students to have authentic and calm dialogues where people take time to understand each other.
“Learning how to have these dialogues helps the girls become leaders and navigate conversations in the future,” Ms. Maurice added.
Using discussions, student leaders communicate what they wish for their classmates to learn. According to senior Emilee Chubb, chaplain of this student organization, students want to feel that they are connected, and not just going through Dominican. She wants her fellow classmates to know that “under our skin, we are all the same.”
Chubb said that it is not always easy to stand up for what is right, but in the end, it is rewarding to be doing what is right to benefit the Dominican community.
Dominican’s diversity program helps to promote peace not only in the Dominican community, but the surrounding neighborhoods, also. “As a school sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Peace, we have an obligation to work for peace, especially in our community,” said Dr. Cynthia Thomas, president of Dominican. “Dominican is dedicated to devoting the time necessary for effective dialogue and better understanding in our community.”
The program aims to teach Dominican girls important skill sets, such as the correct language in conversations and how to be allies. These are skills students can take with them to college and into the world outside of Dominican. As part of shaping young women to the profile of a Dominican graduate, Students for Human Dignity and Diversity in Action want to shape their emotional intelligence, too.
Emotional intelligence allows for understanding between people. It gives people the ability to communicate with others to help deescalate potentially-volatile situations and accept others despite their differences. “I’ve learned how to have better conversations with girls in the Dominican community and even people outside of Dominican,” said junior Zoee Hunter. “It has helped my conversation skills and understanding of people around me.”
According to Dr. Wright, emotional intelligence is just as important as academic intelligence. “You can have the technical intelligence, but you have to be able to work with others,” said Dr. Wright. “The more you can look for something of value in a conversation, that’s when informed dialogue happens.”
Dominican is a place for everyone, no matter her race, culture, ethnicity or social economic background. Dominican is already diverse and will continue to celebrate differences in this program as it continues to grow. Through diversity, Dominican is unified into one body because in God’s eyes, everyone is valued, regardless of differences.
- Grace DiFranco