Diversity Matters

Diversity Matters

Belmont Day had the great fortune, through the generosity of the Ko Family and Wellesley Toyota Speaker Series, to welcome Rosetta Lee to campus today. Ms. Lee, a nationally recognized leader in diversity, inclusion, and anti-bias work, spoke to families this morning about strategies for difficult conversations about current events—a particularly salient topic with the election nearly upon us—then met with and led workshops for our middle school students, concluding her day doing professional development work with our teaching and non-teaching faculty.

Her visit highlighted what we have known for a long time at BDS: diversity work is critical for the health and vibrancy of a learning community. To place it in the frame of our core values, diversity and inclusion are a key element of our commitment to excellence, and not a supplement to it.  Increasingly, research in education from around the country is highlighting the myriad benefits to our students’ learning experiences in classrooms that engage in conversations and activities around inclusion and anti-bias. Most critically, the notion that we believe in creating a safe space for all of our students, regardless of their socio-economic status, racial or ethnic identity, ability, gender, or sexual orientation, has benefits well beyond the safe space we seek to create for them. The are important learning benefits that come from such diverse classrooms as well: greater diversity of thought and perspective, a stronger foundation of trust, caring and kindness, a greater appreciation for and interest in globalism and a reduction in the ethnocentrism that can often stifle a learning experience, a stronger self-esteem borne of a greater understanding of one’s own identity. The list goes on and on, but the sentiment remains the same: diversity and excellence are not mutually exclusive notions in the classroom, they are mutually reliant ones.

With that in mind then, imagine my excitement when, upon arriving to Belmont Day this summer, I was greeted with the announcement of the Annette Raphel Scholarship for Leadership and Diversity. Borrowing language from the Scholarship write-up itself, the Raphel Scholarship, established in 2016 to honor retiring Head of School Annette Raphel, is awarded annually to a new, incoming sixth grade student. The Scholarship is a three-year, full-tuition merit scholarship.  All applicants to sixth grade who live in the Greater Boston area and identify as African-American/Black or Latino/Hispanic are eligible to apply. The Raphel Scholar will be selected on the basis of his/her strong academic potential, interest in contributing to our robust arts and athletic programs, traits of leadership, and demonstrated commitment to living Belmont Day’s six core values: honesty, caring, joy, responsibility, respect, and excellence.

This opportunity is an incredible one not only for the child who receives the first scholarship, but also for our community as well. It is a commitment to our values as an institution and a recognition that diversity matters for everyone at BDS who believes in the excellent education we aim to provide. It seems all the more fitting that this article finds itself sandwiched between Rosetta Lee’s powerful visit and our open house tomorrow, each its own critical reminder and showcase of what we value as a community.

Sincerest thanks to Nai Nan Ko ’94 for his generous support through the Ko Family and Wellesley Toyota Speaker Series that allowed Ms. Lee to join us today. Additionally, I hope that for those of you eager to continue this important conversation, you will join our Braiding Different Strands community gathering on Wednesday, November 9 here at school. Have a great weekend.

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