SA Ambassadors attend Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit

Our three SA MIAA ambassadors (pictured pre-Covid)

MIAA’s 4 th Annual Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Summit

Our three SA ambassadors, Story Goldman, Riley Intrator and Rose Mccollough attended this virtual event. Please see an outline of the speakers and also their takeaways and thoughts on how we can incorporate some of the ideas they heard into our school culture

The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) and the Massachusetts School Administrators’ Association (MSAA) held the fourth annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Summit, with the theme, “Gen-Z Moving A New Dream Forward,” virtually from January 19-21, 2021. More than 435 students, principals, athletic directors, administrators, teachers and coaches participated. The three-day summit included five sessions featuring topics to support and assist people wishing to advocate for change in the areas of race equity, social justice, equal opportunity, acceptance of our differences, systemic racism, and the inclusion of all

Safe and Brave Spaces

The first event I attended was specifically on sports culture and how to create an accepting environment on teams. The speaker stressed the importance of creating “safe and brave spaces” to be inclusive, aware, and welcome to everyone since different people have different interpretations of what it means to be safe. In a primarily white community like Hatfield, I think we need to be more aware of social issues and educate people on this to allow for school to be a safe place for anyone, not just majority groups. She also brought up how conversations regarding social issues can be addressed and how to educate others. A discussion would include having enough background information, being open to questions, being okay with leaving the conversation open ended, and reminding people that everyone in the school community is deserving of dignity and respect. I think we as a school can do better regarding sports culture by being active upstanders by addressing issues and correcting misinformation.

Becoming an Ally and Upstander Kathy Lopes Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Newton Public Schools 

This session had the perfect amount of interaction and listening. We discussed things from unification and being an ally to examples of homophobia, racism and sexism within our culture. With the unification, the keynote speaker discussed how many things go into keeping a movement going, but the biggest factor was being together and uniting to face a common goal. The next speaker dicussed alliship, the differences of being a bystander and upstander and the examples of the discrimination I listed above. She talked about how it can be hard to stand up against things that you don't experience first hand, but some easy ways to think about it is if not you then who else to do it (be an upstander instead of letting these things happen as a bystander), when those being discriminated against may not have the voice to make that type of change. She also discussed that if you have the courage to stand up and be an ally but don't know how to go about it you can follow these rules... listen to those being discriminated against, unite together, talk to trusted adults, ask questions and don't assume. The speaker also had us attend breakout rooms to discuss these topics and share our take on things to then later share with the overall group. Those were the major topics discussed at the first session.

Finding Your Voice Kathy Lopes Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Newton Public Schools Words to Action: What you can do to make your school a better place - today Ted McCarthy Principal, Sutton High School We’re More Alike Than Different, You and I Kathy Lutz Sports and Unified Sports Manager, Special Olympics Massachusetts Joe Walsh President, Adaptive Sports New England

This session had three speakers covering a wide range of topics. The first speaker discussed her own journey of going into social justice work and how even though she was being a leader in these movements and in the pursuit to make a better world she lost friends along the way. She expressed how this was incredibly hard but knew that these few people that she lost and how they made an impact on her life didn't even compare to the impact she's made on others by supporting these movements. The second speaker talked about how to be an ally with privilege. They explained that privilege is not a bad thing but something you can use to benefit those in need through allyship. They used videos and breakout rooms to discuss similar rules you should follow to be an ally like the second speaker did in the first session. Their rules were to not speak over the communities you are speaking for, listen and educate yourself, if you make mistakes, apologize, understand your privilege and know that ally is a verb so just saying you're an ally isn't enough, you have to act. The final speaker in this session had four students from Massachusetts schools, three of which were disabled talk about their sports, how they play, and what organizations you can take part in to support those with disabilities. The other student was a student that has made a major impact within these organizations and tried to inspire others to take part. These were the major topics discussed in the third session.

The Winning Element Deanna Schneyer Founder and Chief Inspiration Officer, The Winning Element

The speaker talked about self growth and how when you are connected with your inner self, you can have clarity and be in the present. She explained how the key ways to achieve this is to focus on hydration, nutrition, movement, recovery, confidence, resilience, energy and self talk. While I this is an important subject that everybody should focus on, even though I didn't think that it fitted directly with diversity, equity or inclusion. The second speaker discussed the formula in being a leader (how followers, situations and key instincts come together to become a good leader for both the people and movements that need you). 

Activism and Inclusion

One of the other events I attended was centered around the importance and inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community within the school. It was amazing to get to hear from a group of students who were part of the Massachusetts GSA, and they provided information about how to spread awareness and inclusiveness in schools. One of the main points they discussed was how to show support in school. School is meant to be a safe space for students to learn, and  micro affirmations like having a GSA, addressing LGBTQ+ news and history, and displaying support visually with pins, flags etc show support. Another important point they brought up was that asking what other people’s pronouns are and introducing your own should be more normal. It was really interesting to hear all the ways we can be contributing to making school a safe and affirming place and I hope we can apply these concepts at Smith Academy.

Think (To Hear Is New Knowledge) Kevin Ross Boston Supervisor, Becoming a Man (BAM) 

I learned a lot and heard two great speeches. The first speaker ran a program that helped advise young African Americans. A few of these teenagers who were being advised came and spoke about their struggles growing up as an African American in society. They also focused a lot of slavery and how much of slavery is ignored and not talked about in school. The second speaker was a man who overcame a drug addiction and now runs a free soccer club in Maine. His entire family was athletic and all of his siblings played D1 soccer and his sister went on to play for Bayern Munich in Germany. He grew up a mixed race kid and navigated his way through school trying to make himself as white as possible when he really was not. He eventually became addicted to heroin and opioids after high school and it took years for him to recover. 

Final thoughts from our SA team

Overall this was a great opportunity filled with so many learning experiences. I'm very grateful to have been able to come to these sessions and now have the ability to share what I've learned and educate others.

I think for our school a takeaway from this would be to try to be as inclusive and respectful to diversity as possible and offer help for kids who need it.

Another takeaway that stood out to me was self growth and how one person can be impactful. A takeaway for our school would be to encourage self growth and a growth mindset but to also encourage people to have an impact on their society or what they believe in.