On Friday, October 11th, our Middle School students undertook three hours of diversity, equity, and inclusion training via a presentation orchestrated by DEI Coordinator Lindsy Serrano. Our facilitators were Jaison Garder, a local podcaster and activist, and Madeline McCubbins, a graduate student at DePaul University, who also led two training workshops at the High School this fall. The content included such topics as racism, gender roles, microaggressions, and white privilege. Through a combination of discussion, video clips, song lyrics, and group sharing, our students were exposed to these concepts in a way that was appropriate for Middle School, yet certainly thought-provoking. And our Middle School advisory groups will be participating in ongoing integration of these topics throughout the rest of the year.

And on that note, after the initial presentation, the students went with their advisors to different places on campus to debrief and discuss further via “Peace Circles.” Students and advisors sat in a circle and spoke one-at-a-time via a “talking stick” to answer questions and describe how they were processing the information they were receiving. Being attentive listeners to the speaker and not interrupting were at the forefront of the peace circles. This follows along with the mindfulness initiative we are also implementing on both campuses. By all accounts, the students took this seriously and had some deeply meaningful conversations. 

I think I was most impressed at how attentive and involved our students were during the large group presentation in the theater. 75 minutes is a long time for Middle School kids to stay in one seat and listen to anything, let alone heady concepts, but our students did a fabulous job. And when the facilitators asked for 10 volunteers to share something they learned at the end, they suddenly had 30 students with their hands in the air! To their credit, they let all 30 speak their piece, which was also inspiring. However, I’m not surprised. The culture of St. Francis instills this type of ability in middle schoolers, enabling them to take on deep topics and in a respectful fashion. I have no doubt our students left this training more aware about some critical topics. Kudos to all who took part in making this happen!