Embracing Diversity in Your School and Community

Lena, a member of the Youth Advisory Board, helps an elementary school student create a doll as part of a recent diversity exercise.

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Lena Kalandjian, our featured guest blogger, is a high school student at North Broward Preparatory School in Florida and a member of the Sandy Hook Promise National Youth Advisory Board.

SAVE Promise Clubs nationwide are committed to building an inclusive school culture by embracing diversity. This may seem like a large undertaking, but the hardest part is finding where to start.

Importance of Trusted Adults

The first thing to know in order to foster a more inclusive community is that trusted adults play an enormous role in shaping the community’s attitude. Having a diverse school staff also leads to cross-cultural connections between adults and students. These connections promote growth and reflection, foster empathy, broaden perspectives, and teach tolerance for all types of backgrounds. 

Social media is an effective platform to advertise the trusted adults at school; with their permission, you can post graphics that include the picture and contact information of some of the trusted adults in the community or at school. Students can reference these posts and know exactly who to contact and how if they need someone to talk to.

Celebrating Diversity

One way to celebrate diversity is by hosting a multicultural fair! At North Broward Prep, our multicultural club hosts a week-long event with each day dedicated to a different culture.

There are special lunches in the cafeteria, students come dressed in clothes representing their culture, there are games on the lawn, music blasting in the morning from different parts of the world, and more!

Implementing the Start With Hello and Say Something programs throughout your school will also help to build a more inclusive and accepting environment. These programs help to create unity, bridge together groups of students who come from different backgrounds, and result in a less clique-y atmosphere where all students feel represented and accepted.

Starting Early

It is important to teach students to embrace diversity beginning in elementary school. This allows students to develop into open-minded learners. Last year, my SAVE Promise Club put together a presentation for elementary school students to teach what “diversity” means and why it is important to embrace each other’s differences.

At the end of the presentation, we led them through an activity using materials like markers/crayons, yarn, fabric scraps, and glitter glue to create a doll that looks just like them, highlighting their unique features.

Creating a Podcast

To appeal to an older audience, this summer our Club officers recorded a podcast about how to foster a more inclusive school community. We shared some ideas about how to counter microaggressions in the classroom, create an affirming environment for LGBTQ+ people, promote empathy and loving engagement, get involved in your community, and more.

Creating a podcast is simple: choose a topic your club is interested in, do some research, and create an outline. Recording can be done over a phone call with a call recorder app, or you can have each participating member record their own section as a Voice Memo and edit the recordings to flow smoothly.

A Busy Month Ahead

October is a very busy month! While the overarching goal is to embrace diversity, it also includes Safe Schools Week and National SAVE Day! These two events are so important for building an inclusive school community and preventing violence year-round.

Whatever you choose to do to help your school celebrate diversity, Safe Schools Week or SAVE Day, just remember that these are all community-based activities that should unite your school to take a stand against violence.

And don’t be afraid to get creative!

Learn more about Lena and her work with Sandy Hook Promise.