Miss Porter’s School Hosts Opening SPHERE Event
On Wednesday, September 2nd, Miss Porter’s School hosted a faculty event open to faculty from the 11 SPHERE schools which included a screening of the film “I’m Not Racist…Am I?” followed by faculty discussion.
Over the course of one school year, a group of remarkable teens plunges into a yearlong journey to get at the heart of racism. Through some tense and painful moments we see how these difficult conversations begin to affect their relationships with friends and parents, and ultimately challenge them to look deep within themselves. By the end of their time together, we see these courageous young people develop deeper bonds, a stronger resolve and a bigger, more significant definition of racism than any of us ever imagined.
For more details on the film or how to arrange a screening, please visit www.notracistmovie.com.
SPHERE Schools Hold Workshops on “Unmasking Racism”
On November 18, 2015 at the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Diversity Directors from four area independent schools led interactive workshops on systemic racism for their colleagues from fellow SPHERE schools and other CAIS schools.
SPHERE is a consortium of 11 independent schools in the greater Hartford area who have come together with a multilayered mission, beginning with an unwavering commitment to creating and nurturing diverse and inclusive communities on each of their campuses. SPHERE schools include Avon Old Farms, The Cobb School Montessori, Ethel Walker, Kingswood Oxford, Loomis Chaffee, Miss Porter’s, Pomfret, Renbrook, Suffield Academy, Watkinson, and Westminster.
The organization founded in the early 1970s has redefined itself over the years, but its original mission remains firm: to work individually and collectively to achieve diverse student bodies and school staffs and foster respect and understanding between and beyond all the people who are part of these unique, independent school communities. SPHERE organizes programs for students and staffs and promotes service learning opportunities. In sum, it binds these schools for the better.
November’s workshops were designed to explore systemic racism and its effects, particularly as an obstacle to building inclusive communities. The workshops explored the history of racism and the subtle ways racism plays out on school campuses every day. As the title suggested, “Unmasking Racism” was about bringing to light the ways in which institutional oppression and indignities, actions or statements, intentional or unintentional, chip away at the well-being of schools and all their community members.
Following the workshops, Cobb School parent and workshop participant, Dr. Agnes Curry, remarked, “The presenters were very informative and engaging, and they created a safe space for a frank and searching discussion of these urgent issues.” Cobb School Director of Admissions, Sallie Ann Jacobs, added, “It was really eyeopening. I loved how the workshop brought together people from different backgrounds to talk about sensitive issues.”
To learn more about SPHERE, please visit www.sphereschools.org. To learn more about its consortium schools, please visit their individual websites.
The Ethel Walker School Hosts Students of Color Summit
Eighty students from seven Connecticut independent schools came together in November for the first annual SPHERE Summit. The Summit was created in recognition of the unique needs and experiences of students of color at predominantly white schools. The Summit provides a collaborative space where students can learn from each other about identity, leadership and activism. It seeks to unite, inspire and empower students of color with the goal of enhancing their overall experience at SPHERE schools.
Seven of the eleven SPHERE schools participated in this year’s event including Avon Old Farms, The Ethel Walker School, The Loomis Chaffee School, Miss Porter’s School, Suffield Academy, Watkinson School and Westminster School. Walker’s hosted this year’s gathering.
Twelve Walker’s students planned and facilitated the Summit. According to one of the organizers, Lian Nicholson ’16, who has attended Walker’s since 6th grade and is now a senior and Student Body President, “The Summit meant the world to me because it provided students of color the opportunity to discuss the various issues we face going to predominantly white schools. We were able to come together and empower one another through our personal stories and perceptive insights. It was a time to unite, inspire and empower one another. The Summit was an acknowledgement that students of color need a safe space to talk about problems with people who share similar experiences.”
The interactive one-day conference was entirely student-facilitated. The day included interactive activities, group discussions and ‘open mic’ performances. In addition, Lizzie Turner, who was Walker’s 2014 Student Body President her senior year, came back to Walker’s to deliver the keynote address. Ms. Turner was selected as one of 40 Women for the Next 40 Years by the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund, an honor given to 40 women ages 16-40 who plan to help pave the way as leaders for the next 40 years.