During the school year, faculty and staff gather monthly to break bread together and discuss significant topics, such as the model minority myth, culturally responsive teaching practices, and gender in today’s world.
Civil Rights Trip
Students and teachers engage with history annually by exploring the sites of the Civil Rights Movement, creating a bridge between classroom knowledge and lived experience. We see where Rosa Parks boarded the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, kicking off the Civil Rights Movement. We visit the basement of a house that made up part of the underground railroad and go to the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice, contending with the history of lynching as we read metal planks listing the names of those lynched. We sit in the church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached and stand at the site of his assassination. The trip gives students a moving, meaningful, and powerful experience connecting to significant aspects of U.S. history.
The Diversity Council at Harvard-Westlake is comprised of current faculty and staff. The group meets regularly during the school year and they have all volunteered to partner with the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to further the school’s mission of having a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community. They know that words alone will not make this mission a reality. Diversity Council members are committed to personal growth and professional development in all areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion affecting members of the Harvard-Westlake community. For example, this work might include examining their own implicit biases, but it might also include researching proven practices for implementing anti-racist curricula or ensuring that our policies are gender neutral. While they serve as members of the Diversity Council to partner with the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on certain school-wide initiatives, they also work within their departments to assist with ensuring the school’s mission and values are implemented.
Diversity Recruiting Fair
Harvard-Westlake hosted the inaugural Southern California Diversity Recruiting Fair in February 2019 and continues to host it annually on our upper school campus. The primary goal of the fair is to expose independent schools to numerous job candidates from underrepresented groups at one time. This extremely popular fair also gives attendees the opportunity to learn about working in an independent school, build resume writing and interviewing skills, find out about open positions, and incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion into their work.
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Every fall, Harvard-Westlake hosts the Pollyanna Conference to explore DEI-related topics and share ideas that encourage participants to become agents of change in their communities. Previous themes have included exploring structural racism, understanding implicit bias, and reimagining gender/sexual orientation in schools.
The mission of Pollyanna is to create a platform “where groups of people can explore together diversity, inclusion, and equity and share ideas, experiences, and knowledge in order to become change agents in their immediate communities. The conference model is a dynamic, focused, and interactive program that provides guidance and training for community leaders. The goal is to improve inclusion within communities and the understanding that racial, socioeconomic, religious, and sexual diversity enhances all elements of the community.”
Pollyanna is structured a bit differently than other conferences. Each school is represented as a School pod with approximately 15 individuals who play a distinct role in advancing the diversity, equity, and inclusion discussion at their school. Learn more about our 2019 Pollyanna through first-person narratives in this article.
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RISE with the Rams
RISE with the Rams was a season-long program seeking to break down barriers and build relationships between four Los Angeles area high school football teams, Harvard-Westlake, Grant High School, Loyola High School, and Locke High School, with a cross-section of races and socioeconomic backgrounds. It used interactive, activity-based programming developed by the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) and community service to build the leadership and cultural competency skills of the student-athletes and coaches. Approximately 15 students from Harvard-Westlake participated in the portion of the RISE with the Rams program that included Grant, Loyola, and Locke. The entire Harvard-Westlake varsity football team, however, participated in the 9-module training during the entire 2019 season.
Student Leaders for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (SLIDE) Leadership Development Program (LDP) provides a unique opportunity for students from participating independent, public, charter, online, religious, and all other school types in grades 10-12 to gather for fellowship, leadership development, courageous conversations, and the creation of a sustainable action plan around topics of diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging. Student leaders engage in programming designed specifically so that they will be able to return to their respective school communities equipped to strategize, organize, and advance the missions of their institutions around diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, belonging, and so much more. It is formatted as a three-day/two-night residential program with daily programming on Harvard-Westlake’s Upper School campus and nightly activities and boarding in local university dorms.
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Each summer, Harvard-Westlake faculty and staff read a book focused on a particular diversity, equity, and inclusion theme. Some examples include Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do by Dr. Claude Steele; Safe Is Not Enough: Better Schools for LGBTQ Students by Michael Sadowski; Independent Queers: LGBTQ Educators in Independent Schools Speak Out by Dr. Philip McAdoo; Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life by Susan Scott; and Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Dr. Mahzarin Banaji and Dr. Anthony Greenwald.