Diversity Day Gives Students Tools for Courageous Conversations

April 3 marked Visitation's 17th annual Diversity Day program. The Kaleidoscope Club this year chose to focus on "Courageous Conversations," recognizing the need for open, honest, and respectful dialogue at all levels: globally, nationally, locally, and within our community. Jamie Adasi '06, an experienced facilitator for diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, was the school's keynote speaker.

Jamie spoke about her foundation in Salesian Spirituality, and how it can be used as a tool for social justice. "Privilege can be a form of gratitude. If I can be grateful for what I’ve been given ... I can move more quickly toward social justice and action for change," she advised students.

Jamie led students and faculty to the gym following her keynote for a concentric circles exercise. Students gathered in circles facing one another, answering questions about their lives, perspectives, and opinions. The exercise allowed the girls to build trust within the community, which is vital to discussing tough topics. Two students reflected on what they learned from their peers:

  • "For a lot of us, the first time we noticed our gender in a really positive way was here at Visitation."
  • "The part of our identity we often overlook is that part we share with everyone else - the part that connects us with other people."

Following the exercise, students headed to small group conversations. They quietly took an anonymous survey, agreeing or disagreeing with statements. All surveys were collected and re-distributed and then Kaleidoscope leaders read aloud each statement as students whose papers indicated "agree" stood quietly. "Outside of Visitation, I feel like my age prevents me from saying what I think." "Because of my gender, I feel less self-assured expressing my opinion outside of school." As groups of students stood up, they had a chance to see how their peers felt about these same topics.

Students shared insights from the silent movement exercise:

  • "You can be very close to someone and still not know what they're going through; we're all diverse in our experience."
  • "We are very lucky to be at an all-girls school, particularly at this age. We're cultivating confidence and discerning our authentic selves here before we head off to college."

In the afternoon, students continued their small group discussions on topics such as social media and bullying, body image and the media, sexual harassment, accessibility and education, race relations, and stigma around mental health. Faculty and staff were guided by Jamie in small group conversations about their experiences with diversity and social justice. 

Jamie concluded the day by answering questions from students on how to approach awkward conversations with friends when you may feel offended, what it means to educate others and educate yourself on topics you're uncomfortable with, and more. 

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