Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: Heathwood Hall is a Community in Action

Monday, November 23, 2020

Saturday, October 17th was a very pleasant fall day in Columbia: temperatures in the mid-60s, sunny skies. A great morning to do yard work, chores, or if you’re a student, perhaps sleep in. Yet, on that morning, 43 members of our school community came together at 8:00 a.m. to participate in our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Assessment of Inclusivity, and Multiculturalism (AIM) workshop.

The workshop consisted of small focus groups or discovery committees of 8-10 people who discussed and responded to a series of questions provided by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). The questions provided each group an opportunity to reflect on experiences at Heathwood, and share both quantitative and qualitative information related to 10 key areas. Each group addressed one or more of the following key areas as they relate to inclusivity and multiculturalism:

  • School Governance and Leadership
  • Policy and Administration
  • Admissions
  • Faculty
  • Teaching/Learning
  • Student Life
  • Publications
  • Staff Involvement
  • Parent Involvement
  • Alumni Involvement

The workshop lasted for three hours as engaged participants reflected, listened and shared information that will assist in the creation of a school-wide climate survey to be designed by NAIS. The groups were dynamic and informative, and spoke to our common interests of providing a rich learning and social environment for all of our students.  

Student Life is one of the critical areas covered during the workshop, and student support is an essential component of an independent school’s work. While we continue to create opportunities for our students to engage in dialogue that helps create cultural awareness through extracurricular activities like our ACCEPT club or debate club as well as through our curricular initiatives, particularly in the humanities, we are now offering an opportunity for our African American students in the Upper School to participate in an affinity group, which is a gathering of people who share a similar identity.

More than 20 students have participated in the groups and have taken advantage of the opportunity to reflect and engage in dialogue around common experiences as Black students living in 21st century America. Moreover, the first couple of meetings have also involved generating a list of goals from the students that will help guide future discussions and activities.

As I’ve spoken with several AIM discovery group participants and heard of some of the meaningful dialogue that took place during the workshop, I marvel at the desire of administrators, parents, trustees, students, faculty, and alums who attended the sessions and are committed to seeing us continue to build on our foundation as an Episcopal School for All: A community devoted to inspiring and empowering students to unlock their potential, develop their character, and gain the confidence to transform a dynamic world.