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St. Mary’s Academy Diversity Day: Be the Light or the Mirror That Reflects It

Posted on April 1, 2020, by Regina Drey SL

Rishika Kartik wears a robe representing India.
All photos by Phil Gentry

For 19 years high school students in St. Mary’s Academy’s Common Ground Club have promoted understanding around issues of diversity, equity and inclusion through affinity groups, roundtables, networking with other schools, and the always-anticipated Diversity Day. This day features national keynote speakers, breakout sessions, and professional entertainment — all as ways to educate and inspire their classmates to greater awareness and responsibility.

Collinus Newsome, director of education at the Denver Foundation, and Oscar Gonzalez, director of equity and inclusivity at Colorado Academy, presented the keynote address with assistance from students who led a silent movement activity to show the commonalities and differences among the student body on issues such as race, religion, and inclusion. The students knew Collinus and Oscar from attending the national Student Diversity Leadership Conference strand of the annual People of Color Conference that they directed. Their topic, “Whose Voices Are Being Heard,” offered insight into attitudes and issues within society. In the afternoon keynote, Shannon Francis, Sky Roosevelt-Morris and Chenoa Francis spoke about violence against indigenous women, fighting for the dignity of all women, and violence against Earth. They led students in making Living Lockets as a way to connect with Earth. Focusing on resilience, they ended their presentation teaching the students self-defense moves.

Sprinkled between the addresses were breakout sessions that probed issues and important ways to address them. Loretto Volunteers Reilly Rebhahn spoke about the Empowerment Program and Becca Krasky presented on Angelica Village. Other breakouts were the Coalition Against Global Genocide, Being an Ally in the Fight for Indigenous Liberation, Seventh Generation Principle, Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, Surviving the Holocaust, Effect of Oppression on Mental and Physical Health, Art as a Medium for Social Justice, and Living in a Deaf World.

The artistic expression of cultures within the school community was on display with students sharing international foods, a fashion show, along with students demonstrating tae kwon do and music and dance sharing their heritage. Similarly, a professional group of Northern and Southern Plains singers and dancers wowed the students with beautiful movement and drumming.

SMA is blessed to have the leadership of Theology and world visions teacher Debbie Horning and the commitment of the Common Ground Club to help the students engage in education and awareness linked to Loretto’s commitment to justice, peace and respect.

Keynote speaker Collinus Newsome asks, ‘Whose voices are being heard?’
Paulina Ursua Garcia and Lydia Fisshea, co-presidents of the Common Ground Club, introduce the day.
Northern and Southern Plains singers and dancers share through dance and music.

Regina Drey SL

Regina is historian/director of Loretto projects at St. Mary’s Academy in Englewood, Colo.
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