As the world continues to be more inclusive of different genders, races, ethnicities, and sexualities, there are still many people that have questions about these differences among people. Sometimes, people don’t know how to approach or answer approach or answer these questions. For this reason, on February 1st the Arlington Career Center (ACC) formed a student-led group with the nickname of “The Diversity Group”. Their main focus is to discuss different problems facing diversity and brainstorming possible solutions. The group’s ultimate goal is to “train people to facilitate discussions about diversity,” explained one of the original members, Phillip Wince.
The word diversity means “variety; multiformity” (Dictionary.com). It can be used to describe the difference in a person’s culture, gender, physical abilities, age, race, sexuallity, political beliefs, religious practices, and even their economic status. To summarize, it’s a word used to describe each and every person’s uniqueness. Each person is made differently. From DNA to attitude, no one person is made alike.
Diversity groups have existed for years in many Arlington County schools at a staff level. Seeing as the ACC hadn’t implemented a group of this sort, Madeline La Salle, a counselor at the Career Center, began advocating for a Diversity Group but at a student and staff level. The idea for this particular group was to train students to be facilitators so they can aid other students in the future.
Although certain people might find such a group “silly” and “unnecessary”, others believe having a group with a sole purpose of focusing on these important topics can be helpful in creating a safe environment for students dealing with these issues. Madeline La Salle, one of The Diversity Group founders and facilitators, says, “It’s important that students are able to facilitate conversations about immigration, disabilities, sexuality and to be able to communicate with other programs.” La Salle later goes on to say, “We’re trying to teach these students communication, how to speak properly to each other, how to listen to each other properly, and how to facilitate.”
A facilitator is one that is “responsible for leading or coordinating the work of a group or as one who leads a group discussion” (Dictionary.com). Members of the Diversity Group, individually selected by teachers, train through exercises, activities, and discussion how to become comfortable and qualified as a facilitator. Students, once trained, will implement what they learned into three workshops that will discuss different topics with other students. According to Diversity Group member, Philip J. Wince, “The diversity members are all about providing opportunities for people to get to know each other and talk about things that are important to them. After we’re trained, we will lead three sessions. The topics we chose to discuss were immigration, LGBT issues, and, I believe, disabilities”.
Members of the Diversity Group discourse on mature, important issues that impact the real world. Students not only learn how to lead discussions, but they learn about real world problems, events, and powerful experiences students have encountered. In the future, this group of sixteen students will assess if the sessions and conversations made a difference, what were some of the results from these conversations, and what are the steps for next year’s Diversity Group.