Building an inclusive community
Each year, students from all over the world embark on a unique journey at EF Academy New York – a journey that includes academic growth, cultural exploration and international immersion. For many students and staff members, being part of this community provides them with their first formative interactions with diversity.
With a uniquely multicultural campus, EF Academy New York recognizes the need for a renewed focus on fostering diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging within its school community. A variety of factors, including unrest and tensions within the US and throughout the world, served as necessary reminders that there is always room for improvement when it comes to making everyone feel welcome and supported.
This fall, EF Academy New York created a dedicated committee for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB), which will be responsible for celebrating cultural diversity, embedding inclusion in the classrooms and residences, and acknowledging areas of need for equity within the school community in order to inform school policy. Two outstanding and passionate people will be co-leading the DEIB committee: Divya Jesudoss and Tranae Robinson. Their different experiences and perspectives make them especially well-equipped to lead this team.
Ms. Robinson, who grew up in the United States, experienced racism at a very young age. In addition to the discrimination that many friends, peers, and colleagues have endured, the prejudice Ms. Robinson has experienced throughout her life has cemented her passion for diversity, equity and allyship. She recognizes that there are many students who have experienced similar kinds of racism, discrimination and prejudice that she herself experienced at a young age. “My hope is that as I help mold these students to be global citizens, fewer kids will have the experience that I had at five years old,” Ms. Robinson explains. “Actually, I hope for the contrary – that we’ll have students who can recognize and stand up against the microaggressions and work to improve the areas in which we lack support for one another in society.”
Weave: Educating, advocating and celebrating our community
Ms. Jesudoss and Ms. Robinson have already begun creating a foundation upon which we will build DEIB throughout our community. They have chosen to call this committee Weave, as Ms. Jesudoss explains: “At EF Academy, we can harness our diversity to build strength and beauty in our pursuit of excellence, weaving our social fabric one unique strand at a time.” She aptly illustrates that “the beauty of a unique pattern lies in the combination of contrasts. Intricate patterns are always a result of careful selection of details and a consciousness of the intelligent design that shapes and drives the envisioned. Weaving is not easy, but it does promise to be purposeful and add value.”
The Weave mission states that “our students come from all walks of life and so do we. Each of us contributes to an inclusive culture. EF Academy New York commits to courageously sharing our perspectives and encouraging our students to do the same. When we educate, advocate and celebrate one another we stay true to the fact that our school can be anyone’s home.” Weave seeks to provide a space in which students and teachers alike can enhance their perspectives and understanding of concepts like diversity and equity. This mission reminds us of the importance of working through, rather than just talking about our differences. “Different is often perceived as difficult. New may not always be met with enthusiasm,” Ms. Jesudoss explains. “Here at EF Academy, we take pride in orchestrating learning experiences and interactions that challenge social categories we have constructed. We choose to work through difficult and new.” The hope of the committee is that Weave provides a conduit for conversation and a platform for the community to learn both from and about each other.
The transformational education that EF Academy provides its students includes a strong emphasis on global citizenship, so the importance of Weave cannot be overstated. In the words of Ms. Robinson, “Having a dedicated space for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging here on campus means that we are actively trying to represent and support every student that graces our community. Teaching allyship is an extremely important tool for our students to use both here in the classroom and as they disembark and continue their journey to adulthood. As we work to foster global citizens, we hope to help each student understand themselves, their peers, and the world around them.”