TH Hosts Diversity Conference for Independent Schools
Independent-school students discussed ways to celebrate diversity and
fight social injustice at their schools during a Multicultural and
Leadership Conference at Tower Hill.
During the March 1 conference for independent schools, about 40
students from eight schools in Delaware and Pennsylvania watched the
documentary film “Paperclips” and talked about stereotypes.
The film tells the story of middle school students in Tennessee who
collected millions of paperclips to represent holocaust victims. During
the paperclip project, the students learned about accepting people
despite their differences.
Learning to accept others is important for independent-school students
because many independent schools have fewer minority students than
public schools, said Jorge Pardo, director of multicultural affairs at
the Tower Hill School.
Independent schools are tuition-supported schools that are not
controlled by the government, according to the National Association of
Pardo said independent schools are changing and the reputation schools
receive for lacking diversity is undeserved. Nineteen percent of the
students at Tower Hill are minorities and 25 percent of students
receive financial aid, he said.
Even though minority enrollment is increasing, minority students at
independent schools tend to feel outcast because most of their fellow
students are white, said Pardo.
Students at Tower Hill organized the conference to empower their peers to stop insensitivity toward minority students, he said.
Insensitivity can cause minority students to deny their heritage or
ignore their roots to try to fit in with the rest of the student body,
The conference showed students that it is okay to be different and emphasized the diversity at independent schools, Pardo said.
Emphasizing diversity is important because people have inaccurate
assumptions about independent schools, said Caroline Godden, a senior
at Tower Hill.
“If you go to Tower Hill you are assumed to be white and at least
upper-middle class,” she said. “Your dad is a CEO and your mom spends
her mornings at the country club playing tennis. But I am here on
financial aid, my parents are divorced and my mother is a lesbian.”
Godden, 18, a Hockessin resident helped organize the conference to
challenge those assumptions and help students understand how to deal
with diversity at their schools, she said.
Many students do not understand that racial slurs and homophobic
language are hurtful and Godden said it is important to change
If a student limits his or her perceptions by stereotyping a group of
people, that student limits his or her potential, said Virginia
Nicholson, a junior at Tower Hill. Everyone is unique and embracing
those differences instead of ignoring or ridiculing them brings
everyone closer, she said.
Bringing more diversity to independent schools is important, said
Morgan Dorsey, a black student at Wilmington Friends School. Dorsey, a
senior, said students at Wilmington Friends are not usually
insensitive, but a lack of diversity at school hurts students of every
“I don’t think we would be able to work if people were not different,
if people did not have different backgrounds and different
perspectives,” she said.
Dorsey, a Wilmington resident, said the conference was beneficial because she could share her perspective with others.
People do not talk about race and ethnicity because the topics make
some people uncomfortable, said Marius Falaris, a junior at the Tatnall
School. If students talk about their differences, they will find they
have common ground, said Falaris, 16, an Elkton, Md., resident.
Diversity is more than just black and white, said Joya Ahmad, a
freshman at William Penn Charter School. Ahmed is Asian and said she is
sometimes overlooked when people talk about diversity.
“For years, I filled in the ‘other’ box on standardized tests,” she
said. “Now, I am mixed in with the Pacific Islanders. Everybody
deserves their own box.”
Ahmad, 15, a Philadelphia resident, said diversity is as much about
emotions as it is about skin color. What a person believes makes them
different and those differences need to be recognized, she said.
Recognizing diversity is the first step to making changes, said Jordan
Hastie, a junior at Tatnall. Hastie is black and said people make fun
of her because she attends a predominately white school. She laughs at
their comments and brushes off their insults, but said a support group
of other minority students is beneficial.
“It is good to know I am not alone,” said Hastie, 16, a Newark resident. “Other people know there needs to be change going on.”
Financial Aid - The
following is information on the percent of minority students and
students receiving financial aid at independent schools that attended
Tower Hill’s Multicultural and Leadership Conference:
Tower Hill School: 19 percent minority students, 25 percent of students receive financial aid
Tatnall School: 12 percent minority students, 17 percent of students receive financial aid
Wilmington Friends School: 23 percent minority students, 21 percent of students receive financial aid
Upland Country Day School: 6 percent minority students, 18 percent of students receive financial aid
St. Andrew’s School: 25 percent minority students, 45 percent of students receive financial aid
William Penn Charter School: 25 percent minority students, 33 percent of students receive financial aid
Friends’ Central School: 22 percent minority students, 26 percent of students receive financial aid
20 percent minority students, 41 percent of upper school students, 16
percent of middle school students and 11 percent of lower school
students receive financial aid.
By By Adam Zewe - The Community News Published with permission of The Community News