Parish Episcopal students, faculty and staff celebrated our inclusive Episcopal community and recognized the diverse history and culture of the world around us during a special event on January 24, 2018. The day of festivities was three fold starting with the Voices and Views Diversity Conference, which led to a Legacy event and Global Blast.
Special guest speakers covered nearly 20 topics and offered their insights and advice during 45 minutes sessions with Upper School students during the Voices and Views conference in the morning. By afternoon, students, faculty and staff gathered together for a Legacy event which included activities with their Legacy families – Wisdom, Honor, Service – and a pep rally featuring music from Essential Standards and production numbers from the US musical Hairspray. Legacy is held each trimester and gives students in 1st through 12th grades, as well as faculty and staff, the unique opportunity to renew their appreciation for Parish’s values, culture and spirit.
After school, people in the community celebrated Global Blast by sharing their culture and history through food, dance, crafts, interactive booths and music. Attendees enjoyed munching on sweet treats and savory dishes while watching the Parish Dance Company perform and listening to student singers and Gospel recording artist Niya Cotton.
“We chose the theme ‘Without Love’ based on a song from our featured Legacy performance, Hairspray,” said Tyneeta Canonge, Director of Diversity and Inclusion. “The play depicts a story of young people who rely on the strength of their commonalities to overcome the burdens of discrimination. The theme reminds me of the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote: ‘I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.’
Keynote speaker, Justina Chen, touched on the themes of discrimination and adversity. The award-winning author and speaker talked about the challenges she faced while dealing with racism as an Asian-American, her painful divorce and changing careers so she could fulfil her passion to become a writer. Chen told students to “go out and live the story you are supposed to live, no matter what anyone tells you.” She also challenged them to develop “personal agency.”
“I’m really exhorting people to go out and be ethical, servant-led leaders who are more about building a world that is inclusive and that is full of love,” added Chen.
Chen spoke directly with students in the Leadership Institute and took questions from Middle and Upper School students during her presentations. She left Parish feeling good about her interactions with our community.
“I’ve been so impressed with them; they’re engaged, they’re attentive, they’re respectful,” remarked Chen. “You could tell they’re thinking about BIG issues and I’m just hoping that they take all of that and meld it with their personal passion and go out and change the world.”
Students also received some insight on how to achieve “personal agency” during the range of topics covered during the Voices and Views conference. Along with faculty, staff and alumni presenters, community organizations hosted interactive workshops at Parish. The manKINDness Project by New Friends New Life and In Her Shoes by the Salvation Army exposed students to the dangers of negative actions and attitudes toward females and of teen dating violence.
The advocacy group, New Friends New Life presented the manKINDness Project: An Awareness Curriculum for Teen Boys that provides an interactive learning experience tailored for teen boys and young men. They examined the objectification and exploitation of girls and women and identified ways young men can develop positive, healthy attitudes and relationships with them.
“This is a school that is already teaching men a great set of values,” said Bill Morse, New Friends New Life. “This just reinforces one component of that, that men have to be intolerant of those who don’t respect girls and women.”
“Mr. Morse did a good job explaining everything to us and making it a little looser so everyone would be willing to talk and not feel uncomfortable,” remarked Kelly Autrey, ’18 “He did a really good job conveying his message.”
“I took away from this lesson a warning about intolerance,” noted Auhsten Serrano, ’19. “People objectify women because of [their] looks. They have more to them than just looks. They have a brain and a mind too.”
In addition to bringing awareness about the abuse of girls and women in the sex trade in North Texas, the manKINDness Project also asks young men to change the way they speak to their counterparts.
“There needs to be a new definition of what ‘locker room’ talk means,” added Morse. “Just like there needs to be a new definition of ‘boys being boys.’” “It has to change to something that is positive that enriches boys and compliments girls. There’s no reason why it can’t.”
“Just hearing these words really stuck with me and going out and using them will hopefully stick with other people too,” added Jackson Harris, ’20.
The Salvation Army made a presentation on teen dating violence called In Her Shoes. Each participant steps into the true story of teens who were subjected to dating violence. They’re allowed to make choices based on the victim’s story.
“I think this program does a really good job of showing students how it can happen, how things can be missed,” said Kira Casimir, domestic violence therapist for Salvation Army. ”The big picture comes together in the end, but it starts kind of small. I think each individual story kind of breaks down those barriers and some of those pre-conceived notions that we have about dating violence.”
The goal of the program is to bring awareness and start a conversation about the signs of an unhealthy relationship.
“Just hearing the real life stories, it really impacted the way I look at it,” noted Sheridan Merkle ’20. “It was a tough topic, but with the activities, it was a lot easier to understand the different kinds of relationship abuse.”
“This class really opened my eyes,” said Josephine Zucker ’20, “I need to know what to do if this happens because this DOES happen.”
Students also participated in round table discussions, learned more about social and emotional health, religion and volunteerism.
“I hope students walk away from Voices and Views with a greater perspective of what it means to walk in someone else’s shoes,” added Canonge. “If in the end, they have a little more empathy toward people who they didn’t before, we have met our goal."