Mark Day School has had a long commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. It has been a part of our mission since the founding of the school. As the school and the world change, we look toward best practices and latest research to guide us in our ongoing efforts. Identity shapes who we are and how we navigate and interact with the world around us. Identities are complex; we all have ways in which different parts of our identity intersect with one another. Developing a strong sense of self across a range of identity dimensions is important for children and adults of all ages.
Our 2014 strategic plan has a number of goals addressing inclusivity. Specifically, the plan states that "we will broaden and strengthen our culture of inclusiveness and support our commitment to equity and social justice." The faculty and staff came together, formed a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) committee that includes faculty, staff and administrators, and have met monthly for the last several years. The 2017-2018 strategic plan update highlighted our D&I work as a priority, and we continue to learn in order to employ and spread inclusive practices. A well established inclusive practice in industry and schools that Mark Day has not yet adopted is the offering of affinity groups for students. As a result, a subcommittee was formed to learn more about affinity groups. This subcommittee has been researching affinity groups for the past year and a half.
Affinity groups are a way for students to come together based on a shared identity in a safe place to discuss, share and explore their experiences within a safe and supportive space defined by membership in that specific identity group. Affinity groups are a way to facilitate opportunities for affirming, nurturing and celebrating lived experiences; discuss issues related to identity development in a safe environment where people who share that identity can generate community, fellowship and empowerment; and envision and share strategies for greater diversity, equity and inclusion at Mark Day School (Borrowed from National Association of Independent Schools People Of Color Conference).
We want all students at Mark Day School to develop a strong sense of identity and belonging. Affinity groups is a way for students to feel confident and proud about all of the different parts of their own identities and not to shy away from or hide aspects of their identity that are not the same as the majority culture. These groups can support students to feel more visible and increase their sense of belonging at school and in doing so, affinity groups can support and enhance our efforts to build a more inclusive community.
Below are two articles from NAIS on affinity groups in independent schools:
- NAIS 2012 article on affinity groups: https://www.nais.org/magazine/independent-school/w...
- NAIS Independent Ideas Blog: How Racial Affinity Groups Saved My Life: https://www.nais.org/learn/independent-ideas/novem...