Mayfield students and teachers attend National Diversity Conference

They want to learn how to have uncomfortable conversations—and learn from the discussion.
They want to hear about issues they don’t understand from people who are different from them—because that’s what listening is about.
This group of Mayfield students reflects the sentiments of many students who are craving to learn how to respectfully disagree and not debate; express opinions and not be judged.
“We need to listen to learn, not listen to respond,” said Niamh Diver ’19.

These expressions of hope about their Mayfield education come weeks after six students, three teachers and Head of School Kate Morin attended the 2018 People of Color Conference sponsored by the National Association of Independent Schools.

The conference in Nashville, Tenn., drew more than 6,400 educators and students under the theme of “Equitable Schools and Inclusive Communities: Harmony, Discord and the Notes in Between.”

Our students and faculty members felt empowered by the sense of solidarity among those gathered from around the country, and were inspired by the message that equity and justice is rooted in respectful listening and dialogue.

All too aware of the divisiveness in America today, our students believe that they can be change-agents.  

“Now is the time when we need to start thinking about different perspectives and hear different opinions from each other, even if we don’t have a solution,” said Alyssa Romo ’19.  

The girls who attended are leaders in Mayfield’s Diversity Committee that advocates for understanding, inclusion, acceptance and respect among the diversity of Mayfield’s students, faculty and staff.

Dominique Jakowec ’19, said she appreciated being in a room “with people who are so different than you, but you can all talk about diversity.”

Mrs. Morin said the conference presents a transformative experience for both students and teachers.

“It exposes them to people for all over the country who are also passionate about making the world a better place and learning the skills to be part of that process,” she said.

“I want to make Mayfield not just a place of inclusion and acceptance, but a school where we celebrate all the gifts that people bring,” Mrs. Morin said. “We are a diverse school and we need to make sure that we are creating a safe environment where everyone feels cherished.  

Sarah Briuer Boland, an English teacher and Mayfield’s  new Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator, attended with faculty members Nalei Guzman and Kenny Fisher.

As she reflected on the themes that were most important to her, Ms. Briuer Boland said she viewed it not so much as a diversity conference, but “an equity conference.” She shared a metaphor to help explain.

“Diversity is where everyone gets an invitation to the party,” she said. “Equity is when everyone is let in. Inclusion is when everyone gets an invitation to dance or gets their request heard by the DJ.”

At its core, the conference is "about love—intrapersonal, interpersonal, institutional, and ideological," said Lora McManus '14, an alumna who attended the conference during her Mayfield years and now serves as a faculty member. "Students experience, often for the first time, what it feels like to be truly embraced and accepted for who they are....We try to impart on every student that they are seen, heard, valued, and powerful; that their voices and experiences matter; to walk with a purpose because they are the ones we have been waiting for."

Our teachers and Mrs. Morin emphasized that such objectives speak directly to the goals of our Holy Child educational philosophy that call on schools to “work for Christian principles of justice, peace and compassion in every facet of life” and to “create a learning climate based on trust and reverence for the dignity and uniqueness of each person.”

Both the students and teachers acknowledged that Mayfield, with its 55% diverse student body, is exemplary among independent schools. Yet they want their Mayfield education to move beyond a demographic statistic.  They see their classrooms as a safe environment and want to see more deep classroom discussions, when appropriate, as part of understanding diverse points of view.

Spanish teacher Nalei Guzman said she strives to incorporate discussions on justice and compassions when exploring Latin American countries. Briuer Boland is teaching strategies for respectful conversations dialogue in our Formation of Self courses.

“There is a difference between debate, diatribe and dialogue,” she said.

Niamh, who attended the conference for the second year, said she was grateful “to be with people who are not like me and I learned what it was like for a person of color to grow up in the U.S.,” she said. “I want to help people who identify as white to learn how to be good allies and use their voice to stand up for others and support people of color.”
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Established in 1931, Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, CA is a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school for young women grades 9-12. Noted for its rigorous academic program, which includes 28 Advanced Placement and Honors courses, Mayfield’s curriculum is underscored by a philosophy of educating the “whole child,” which also encourages commitment to and excellence in the arts, athletics, community service and spiritual growth. The nurturing environment at Mayfield Senior School allows each student to flourish in an atmosphere of personal attention.