The diversity difference
Private schools are at the forefront of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.
Lusanda Mayikana is the Dean of Pluralism and Multicultural Affairs at Lake Forest Academy, a secondary day and boarding school in Lake Forest. The school has 440 students from 39 different countries. The average class size is 12 students.
The school forms a DEI council to implement policies that include different perspectives. The DEI board will also measure the results of the program. “We want to make sure that Lake Forest Academy is a welcoming environment,” says Mayikana. “We want students to be heard.”
For example, students from Ukraine and Russia shared their experiences and different perspectives on the war in Ukraine. “Students were able to express how they felt and process events,” says Mayikana.
Student leaders at Lake Forest Academy facilitate “community dialogues”. The subjects are chosen by the students. Additionally, on the Multicultural Celebration Day in March, students from different countries share particular aspects of their culture. “We want students to hear different points of view,” says Mayikana.
Catherine Cook School, PreK-8, Chicago, has a strong DEI initiative detailed on its website. Program elements include the DEI board, program areas, and strategic goals, among other components. The school also has a DEI principal, Motoko Maegawa. This is his third year at school. She works with various school districts to implement the program. Additionally, parents are invited to explore DEI topics at special events such as outings and book discussions.
Regina Dominican, a Catholic high school for girls in Wilmette, is committed to justice and dignity for all people, reflecting the values of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, the school’s founders, according to Kathleen Porreca, principal. “Our commitment is rooted in Catholic social teaching,” she says. The student-run DEI Club at Regina Dominican is empowered to create school-wide events and activities. The club sponsored an event during the consultation period where students watched a television series about Colin Kaepernick, the civil rights activist and football quarterback. Student discussions followed the documentary. During Black History Month, guest speakers were featured with local black business owners. “We can engage students and work for equity in a respectful environment,” says Porreca.
Social justice and service learning are course topics at the Northwestern Center for Talent Development, Evanston. The Center is part of the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University.
The Center runs a variety of accelerated academic and advanced enrichment courses, both online and in-person for gifted students. Credit courses and enrichment courses are available. There is an application process and admission is based on test scores or a portfolio.
The Center’s civic education project provides opportunities for promising young people to learn and serve in communities across the country, developing the leadership skills they need to positively impact the world, according to the website. .
One of the course offerings is “Raise Your Voice”, a 6-week course focused on public speaking with weekly live online class meetings. The course for 7th and 8th graders aims to build students’ ability to engage, inspire and motivate others through various channels, including social media.
According to Linsey Crowninshield-Ryan, deputy program director of the civics project, students practice developing persuasive arguments and conveying those messages. She notes that the Center offers other courses that address the theme of diversity and social justice. “Students have a lot of options,” she says.