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An Evening with Jesmyn Ward, Author and National Book Award Winner


May 19, 2021

Two-time National Book Award winner, MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant recipient, Tulane University creative writing professor, and renowned author Jesmyn Ward gave a brief reading and was interviewed by BLACC (Black Leadership Awareness and Culture Club) leaders. Ward is the author of the acclaimed novels Where the Line Bleeds, Salvage the Bones, and Sing, Unburied, Sing and the memoir Men We Reaped. She is also the editor of the anthology The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race.

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MESA Presentation and Open Forum on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


May 18, 2021

"We discussed the complex evolution of combustible terms such as genocide, crimes against humanity, racism, reconciliation, and reparations. We looked at the intricate relations between warring ethnic groups, issues of conflict resolution, and the challenges of framing the past. Events like this elicit provocative engagement, advance knowledge, and engender further questions on controversial topics that students, teachers, and the Harvard-Westlake community at large grapple with. They provide a forum for attentive listening, thoughtful reflection, and variegated voices that will allow our community to grow and, hopefully, get closer in the process. Certitude is both a stifling and dangerous phenomenon, while healthy doubt allows budding minds to wonder and expand intellectually and emotionally."

Dror Yaron
MESA Faculty Advisor

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Cinema Sundays, featuring Jake Gyllenhaal ’98 discussing Brokeback Mountain


May 16, 2021

For the final Cinema Sunday of the 2020-2021 season, Jake Gyllenhaal '98 joined Ted Walch to look back at Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee's heartbreaking adaptation of Annie Proulx's short story.

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All-School Community Time, featuring transgender actor and artist Hunter Schafer


May 14, 2021

"Hunter's advice to her high school self stood out because she spoke about the balance of expressing yourself and remaining safe. I think safety is often overlooked when teenagers are given the advice to 'just be yourself,' and I was glad that she brought up the nuance of what that might mean for someone in the LGBTQ+ community. I am used to speakers who are significantly older than HW students and realized during the conversation that a speaker like Hunter Schafer who is closer to our age makes what she says much more relatable to the audience. The more people hear from and talk with people with different backgrounds or opinions, the more they are able to be empathetic and understanding."

Helen Graham '21 

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Upper School SLIDE (Student Leadership in Inclusion, Diversity and Equity) Seminar on Student Citizenship


May 10, 2021

Planned by student leaders, this seminar during Community Time was designed to encourage dialogue, learning, and personal as well as community reflection around essential questions of student citizenship in 2021. The event included an intro webinar and community conversation consisting of choose-your-own-adventure interactive breakout room workshops led by faculty and staff. Workshop topics included socially engaged art, structural racism, emotionally processing the past year, (non)partisanship, and student activism. Students, faculty, and staff were encouraged to consider these questions: How do you strike a balance between engaging with news of social injustices and keeping up with your academics? Tell us about some of the challenges of this during the 20-21 school year. How is our school encouraging practices of care and changemaking in high school so that we grow to be caring adults who engage in changing our communities/country/world? How can HW do better in this regard?

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Anti Asian Racism, a conversation with Dr. Karen Korematsu


May 10, 2021

Harvard-Westlake's Asian American Culture Club (AACC) hosted a special conversation and all community webinar with Dr. Karen Korematsu, civil rights activist and daughter of Fred Korematsu, who challenged Japanese American incarceration during WW2.

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DEI Lunch with Bettina Love, author of We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom


May 6, 2020

"Bettina Love empowered me as an African American woman to have agency and confidence to always be my authentic self and to be unafraid to use my voice in the spaces where I might not feel I belong. Her permission to be fearless was brilliant and compassionate. But what I loved most was that her messaging was as powerful for me as it was for our young people. There were times when she made pointed comments and suggestions for our students, but in general, all of Dr. Love's lessons were applicable to the unheard, the unseen, and unaccepted, no matter their age or experience in life. Because we are a place of intellectual discourse, it is supremely important for minority voices to hear from an outside expert and learned source that how they are feeling is valid and right…no matter how much people (whether they are well-meaning or cruel) tell them they are wrong."

Nia Kilgore
Upper School Dean

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HW Parents DEI Cinematic Discussion of 13th, featuring Senator Cory Booker and Professor Laurie Levenson


May 4, 2021

Ava DuVernay's 13th is a thought-provoking documentary that lays bare the intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in America. Senator Cory Booker, featured in 13th, spoke to his work in the Senate and proposed legislation to address bias and incarceration rates. Professor Laurie Levenson, Founding Faculty Director of Loyola Project for the Innocent, facilitated the conversation with Senator Booker and shared her professional experience overturning numerous wrongful convictions. The evening also included a panel discussion with Jarrett Adams, who was wrongfully convicted of a crime he did not commit at age 17. (See Jarrett’s story here.) The panel also included HW students and Loyola Project for the Innocent interns Samantha McLoughlin '21 and Izzy Welsh '22. 

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Upper School Community Meeting featuring Susanne Reyto


April 23, 2021

We were graced by the presence of Susanne Reyto, an award-winning author and speaker who is a child survivor of the Holocaust. She authored Destination Freedom and Pursuit of Freedom, is a member and chairman of multiple organizations, and is a powerful speaker striving to educate on the history of the Holocaust. Susanne Reyto told us her story, which conveyed her perseverance and optimism throughout her life and offered her unique insight on how to combat present day antisemitism.

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Upper School Community Meeting featuring Dr. Andrea M. Ghez


April 14, 2021

We welcomed Dr. Andrea M. Ghez, astronomer and professor at the UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy. 

Dr. Ghez focuses her research on demonstrating the existence of a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. Dr. Ghez has followed her passion for investigating black holes as a way to understand our galaxy and the universe. Her list of accomplishments is massive; recently, she was one of the recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics for her research. Furthermore, she has done work promoting women in STEM, especially in the field of astronomy.

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Upper School Community Meeting featuring Rabbi Sharon Brous


March 23, 2021

Rabbi Brous discussed various topics related to Jewish identity, anti-Semitism, the relevance of religion and what is religion’s role in social justice. 

Rabbi Brous is a leading voice in reanimating religious life in America, working to develop a spiritual road map for soulful, multi- faith justice work in Los Angeles and around the country. Brous is the senior and founding Rabbi of IKAR, which was started in 2004 and has become a model for Jewish revitalization in the US and beyond. With the goal of reinvigorating Jewish practice and inspiring people of faith to reclaim a moral and prophetic voice, IKAR quickly became one of the fastest growing and most influential Jewish congregations in the country. Today it is credited with sparking a rethinking of religious life in a time of unprecedented disaffection and declining affiliation.

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Harvard-Westlake Chinese Cultural Club Spring Student Career Panel


March 14, 2021

A panel discussion made up of of accomplished young HWCCC alumni was followed by breakout sessions for students to engage with the panelists up close.

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HW Faculty & Staff Diversity Council Meeting


March 11, 2021

"The article we read for today was validation for why we are doing what we are doing and I hope we can reference it when we encounter any 'noise' that this work is not worthwhile. Making the members of our community (particularly students) feel welcome and included is important. Even the smallest gesture goes a long way, and our students are paying attention and watching for signs that they are valued. The Diversity Council allows us to have a safe space to have challenging conversations and explore new ways to bring the rest of the community along as we collectively examine and improve upon our antiracist goals. This is an ongoing process that will require the efforts of all members and a commitment to continue to grow and improve the climate and culture of our school. I am happy to be part of such an energetic and welcoming team of professionals and do what I can to help move the needle of progress in the right direction."

Tim Smith, Administrative Assistant

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HW DEI Alumni Advisory Council Inaugural Meeting


March 9, 2021

"I was surprised by the range of experiences that my fellow alums have had at Harvard-Westlake and walked away realizing that I have more questions to ask and that I need to spend more time listening. It’s an impressive group of individuals and I look forward to more in-depth dialogues."

Carrie Lee '95

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Meditation Family Social, brought to you by Harvard-Westlake Chinese Cultural Club


February 28, 2021

Dr. Bill Stubbeman P'25 '25, a psychiatrist in private practice in West LA who also operates a dedicated meditation practice, discussed the various types of meditation and their benefits, as well as key techniques in visualizing, concentration, and mindfulness, followed by a 45-minute meditation session with the members of HWCCC.

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How to Make Chirashi Sushi with JAG


February 26, 2021

Hiromi Higashi taught HW's Japanese Affinity Group how to make chirashi sushi, complete with an ingredient list and recipe, so families could follow along and eat it for dinner when they were done.

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Cameron Shaw ’00 named executive director of the California African American Museum


February 22, 2021

Cameron Shaw '00 has been named executive director of the California African American Museum, located just 15 miles from Harvard-Westlake’s middle school campus. Congratulations, Cameron! In March, check out CAAM’s virtual events in honor of Women’s History Month

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JAG meeting featuring Olympic water polo player Johnny Hooper '15 and Coach Brian Flacks


February 21, 2021

"Johnny Hooper is a world-class athlete, but he's also so much more. He's a true student athlete, having earned his degree at the Haas School of Business while racking up national honors in the pool. It was wonderful to meet an Olympic athlete competing for the United States who is of Asian ancestry, and students who share his heritage can hear his story and believe that their own dreams are more possible. But just as important is how these events highlight how much we all have in common. Every water sports athlete who has shivered on the deck of an outdoor pool for a 6 a.m. winter workout can identify with his discipline and sacrifice. Every athlete can identify with the faith involved in practice and the pressure that accompanies big moments of competition. Every human being can relate to the crushing weight of failure, and the resilience and resourcefulness needed to rise above it. Coach Flacks told the story of how on the very day that Johnny learned he hadn't made the 2016 Olympic team, he not only came to practice, but wanted to stay and work to get better. I can't imagine the pressure Johnny must have felt going through the selection process all over again four years later, and I am inspired by his determination and courage."

Lori Shiotani P'23 '26
JAG member

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Chinese New Year Celebration with HWCCC


February 21, 2021

"It's been such a challenging and isolating year for the HW community as well as our global community. So I find myself joining many virtual gatherings like this event to keep me connected. I was once again able to appreciate what a family-like community Harvard Westlake really can be--that we genuinely wish each other wellness and miss and value each other as seniors, new and current students, faculty, administration, and family. It was also wonderful to see the seniors celebrated as a class in their very special year. More than ever, this year, our hopefulness and wishing each other a better and healthy new year was heartwarming and poignant. I came away grateful and hopeful."

Donna Ko P'19 '23 '23 

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HWFC Cooking Class with Virginie Degryse


February 20, 2021

Virginie Degryse is a Harvard Westlake mom of three, cooking instructor and food blogger. She is passionate about food, healthy cooking and putting together easy-to-prepare family meals. She put together a menu for participants and sent the ingredients in advance so they could either sit back and watch or cook along!

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Student Diversity Leadership Conference presentation at Upper School Faculty/Staff Meeting


February 19, 2021

"I've been lucky to attend many DEI events at Harvard-Westlake, and somehow the Zoom exercise [during which SDLC student leaders asked faculty and staff to turn their video off, then back on if they identified with particular groups, had talked to students about race, etc.] had the biggest impact because students asked faculty to be vulnerable and share information about their own identities and experiences. I left with a strong visual impression of how alone people can feel when they are one of the few from a particular background. These discussions create situations where we remember how hard it is to feel excluded and different and that we have a responsibility to see how we contribute to making others feel that way."

Edie Darling, US Librarian

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Purim Hamantaschen Baking with the HW Jewish Family Alliance


February 19, 2021

Sharon Steiglitz P'26, P'22 taught participants her recipe for the traditional cookie associated with Purim, hamantaschen, as well as options for different types of fillings. Our baking events are always so much fun--we laugh and follow along with Sharon's instructions and tips together in our kitchens and share stories of baking memories with our family and friends.

Shana Glassman '20 '22 '24, JWFA Leader 

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Brown Bag Lunch featuring BLACC student leaders


February 15, 2021

"I am always so impressed with HW students and their ability to articulate complex topics with such clarity. They offer such valuable insight into the student-lived experience that I can then apply as a teacher and mentor. And with a spirit of love and respect for one another! It was eye opening to learn about 'stereotype threat' and how detrimental this is to people and their ability to perform at their best. In my class afterward, we talked about this, and it was a great way to connect with my group beyond our scheduled course curriculum. The Brown Bag lunch sessions have been one of the more valuable professional tools available to me at HW; I always gain so much inspiration and perspective from them."

Jesse Chehak '97, Upper School Visual Arts Teacher

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A Night of Short French Films with the Harvard-Westlake French Club


February 12, 2021

Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz and Alliance Française de Los Angeles presente Le Festival de Courts Métrages Français à Los Angeles (A Night of Short French Films), selections from the top short film festivals in France, including one César nomination. 

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Raising Kids Amidst a Culture of Calling Out: Parent Speaker Event


February 11, 2021

Activist, professor, and author Dr. Loretta Ross discussed cancel culture and how it affects our children. Sponsored by HW Parents and School Speaker Alliance of Los Angeles (SSALA).

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Dumpling Making with Japanese Language & Culture Club


February 11, 2021

A fellow club leader's parent helped lead a group of students and parents in the dumpling making process on the day before Lunar New Year began for 2021. It was fun being able to watch everyone cooking in their kitchens, interacting with each other, and laughing about our messy dumplings and mishaps together. It was a really nice way to bond with and get to know peers while cooking delicious food. The dumplings turned out really yummy and it was a super nice event.

Averie Perrin '24, JLCC Leader

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Unceasing Militant: The Life of Mary Church Terrell by Alison Parker '83


February 10, 2021

Alumna author Alison Parker '83 led a discussion on her book Unceasing Militant: The Life of Mary Church Terrell, moderated by HW English and communications teacher Juliet Suess.

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BLACC meeting celebrating Black History Month and featuring Elijah Lee


February 10, 2021

"I just wanted to say thank you to Elijah for what he has done for me and others in this Zoom meeting. You are by far the most insightful young person I have ever had the pleasure to speak with. Your admirable delivery and perspective really touched our hearts today. It was like listening to the next Martin Luther King Jr. (with the passion and heart of Malcolm X, obviously). Your words were exactly what I needed this morning. Please keep doing what you are doing and follow your dreams!"

Aidan Romain '26

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Middle School Assembly featuring Austin Channing Brown, author of I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness


February 8, 2021

"It is essential to learn about the struggles different communities face daily, even if you are not a part of the community. These discussions help make students of color feel accepted and supported by their school by highlighting their communities' issues. I believe this is an essential part of creating a comfortable school environment where students feel welcome and supported by the people around them to be their truest selves. When asked about how her work would make a difference in the larger scheme of things, Ms. Brown said she didn't plan to have a national position or be in the government. She said she felt she was making a difference by talking to young people and educating them. This resonated with me because it showed that you do not have to be president or the most famous person in the world to be influential and make a difference. Austin Channing Brown inspired me not only to try and make a change in the world but to find my passion and change the world while doing it."

Hunter Bridgett '24

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HW Parents DEI Committee Book Talk on Caste, Part 3


February 4, 2021

"Although I knew that the trauma that our ancestors were subjected to still affects us today in a myriad of ways, I had never thought about it in terms of a caste system. Conversations like we had surrounding Caste are invaluable because instead of coming together as a community in a reactive manner when the n-word is used or someone is offended about an inappropriate comment or behavior, we came together to talk in a proactive manner to discuss."

Anita Otaño P'15

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HWCCC Parents' Social: Cardio Dance Zumba


February 3, 2021

"It's been difficult to maintain a sense of community this year, and I value the efforts made by parent volunteers to keep us all connected. I decided to join the HWCCC Zoom Zumba class because it provided an opportunity to try something new, connect with HW parents, get in a little exercise, and show my support for and engagement with the cultural clubs at HW. While I don’t have a direct connection to the Chinese culture, I got to know some members of HWCCC through my work volunteering on the Faculty Appreciation Committee and decided to join the group because of all the great events and the ability to connect with a small subset of the HW community. What struck me about the Zumba class was how welcome I felt. I loved the instructor and thought the organizers had arranged for a great event with both social and physical rewards. Already a member of a couple parent cultural clubs, I decided to join a few more this year. It has been a wonderful opportunity to get to know more parents, learn about other cultures, and have fun."

Christopher Mehta P'23 '26

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HWCHAIPA Ladies Night


January 29, 2021

"In this age of Zoom fatigue, we wanted a casual fun event without any agenda where the moms could just relax, have a drink, have some laughs, and get a break. Although organized by HWCHAIPA [The Harvard-Westlake Cultural Heritage & Arts of India Parents' Association], it was so nice to see so many affinity group leaders join. I love the camaraderie that we share. We had some moms new to HW join and it was nice to get to know them in a casual environment and share laughs and anecdotes. Hopefully they felt a little more connected as well."

Supriya Pande, HWCHAIPA leader

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HWCCC Fire and Ice Concert


January 24, 2021

The HWCCC (Harvard-Westake Chinese Cultural Club) gathered for an unforgettable evening of classical music, thanks to Bing Wang, Associate concertmaster of LA Philharmonic, and Kelly Choi, founder of Santa Monica Piano Academy. The virtual event was led by co-chairs Heidi Zhu, Christina Zhong, and Di Fan, supported by volunteers Sherrie Wang, Yuan Dai, Christine Jiang, Rachel Yang, Donna Ko, and Laura Tao.

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HW Black Caucus Black Village Talk featuring All American Executive Producer Nkechi Carroll


January 22, 2021

About 40 participants gathered via Zoom to talk about the TV show All American with seventh grade dean Jon Carroll and his wife, Executive Producer Nkechi Carroll, who shared her personal journey to reach the success that she has worked so hard for.

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HW Parents DEI Committee Book Talk on Caste, Part 2


January 21, 2021

"Caste is opening our eyes to see what other people's experiences have been in America and in other countries. The author's intent is to include voices and perspectives that often are unheard, invisible, silenced, or erased from history. HW's Courageous Conversations are helping to break that silence, educate, and raise awareness through learning and empathy."

Anita Dashiell-Sparks P'22 '22 '26

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Cinema Sundays: I Am Not Your Negro


Jan 10, 2021

More than 95 community members gathered for a robust discussion about the powerful documentary I Am Not Your Negro hosted by Ted Walch and Janine Hancock Jones for Cinema Sundays. In the film, James Baldwin says "I am terrified at the moral apathy, the death of the heart, which is happening in my country. These people deluded themselves for so long that they really don’t think I'm human." Students led the way during an hour long discourse about facing racism, the importance and complexities of representation, elements of powerful storytelling, and how we can empathize and stand up for one another.

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HW Parents DEI Committee Book Talk on Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson


January 7, 2021

"As a Latinx woman and chemistry professor, I have dedicated my career to promoting science to both women and underrepresented populations; as a parent, I have tried to raise a socially aware son who understands equity differences in opportunity and treatment of different races and socioeconomic populations. This book talk demonstrated the clear community that exists around DEI ideas at HW, and I enjoyed the honest sharing and different perspectives on these issues. I'm excited to continue the conversation and hear how HW is incorporating these ideas into the curriculum."

Veronica Jaramillo P'26

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HW Jewish Family Alliance meeting featuring Tracy Walder, author of The Unexpected Spy


January 5, 2021

"I read Tracy Walder’s book in the summer of 2020 and found her story to be an incredible example of the different paths our lives can take after college. Though we are both USC graduates, her path is way more adventurous than mine. I enjoyed hearing the angle she took with this presentation [how being Jewish affected her work in the CIA and FBI]. We must continue to teach our children to recognize anti-Semitic and antifemale conversations and actions in their world. It also wasn't lost on me that Tracy discussed domestic terrorism just hours before the attack on our nation's Capitol. She is a wealth of information and has a background that makes her teaching and discussions so relevant to our current events. On a personal note, I’m thrilled the HWJFA affinity group was formed. This is our 11th year at HW and I’m proud to see the DEI work to make our HW community even stronger. Thank you to the DEI team."

Ronna Berlin P'16 '19 '23

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BLACC meeting: Curls & Conversation, featuring guest speaker Charity Butler of Count It All Curls


December 18, 2020

"What makes good hair? It’s all good hair. You just have to learn how to care for your own unique texture, embrace it, love it, and appreciate it."

Charity Butler

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Brown Bag Lunch on Takeaways from the 2020 People of Color Conference


December 16, 2020

"What I took away from the People of Color Conference was that we have to stop sugarcoating the reality of our country’s history and centering white fragility. So much has been lost. Dr. Bettina L. Love spoke with so much passion, accuracy, and truth. When activist, poet and songwriter Lyla June shared her beautiful song, 'All Nations Rise,' I shed tears. So many don't want us to unite with love, but if we want to reach this country’s ideals, of liberty and justice for all, we must. If we work together, really hear, see, and feel each other, we could reach the light. I hope this Brown Bag helped to open the hearts and minds of our community and that we continue to share our stories."

Yutopia Essex
Benefits Administrator & Coordinator of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

 

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BLACC meeting: Colorism, featuring guest speaker Chika Okoro


December 11, 2020

"I asked Chika, 'How do I give my dark skin friend a compliment when she's not feeling herself without coming across like I’m pitying her?' Chika's response was, ‘It seems like you care a lot about this friend, and you genuinely think she is beautiful. Just trust that your compliment will come across as genuine since your intentions are genuine.'"

Makeda Neavill '21

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Japanese-American Affinity Group Sake Tasting


December 11, 2020

"One of our primary goals is to create a sense of community among families, something that is particularly important and challenging during quarantine. Because we could not throw an in-person holiday gathering, we contacted the owners of the Japanese restaurant and bar, Tsubaki and Ototo, who host virtual sake tasting classes. Although there were about 50 people on the Zoom, people were able to connect through the tasting. In breakout rooms, we started talking about sake but ended end up talking about other things, like our families, and got to know one another better. One group stayed on the Zoom, which started at 8, until nearly 10:30. HW JAG welcomes all families, faculty, and staff, who have an interest in Japanese and Japanese-American culture and want to get to know other people at school. We are planning a virtual Japanese cooking class and a parent roundtable, where member families share their experience with the college admissions process. We hope that people continue to join us!"

Audra Mori P'24'26
JAG Leader

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Athletics Department DEI Training with Alison Park


December 11, 2020

"The talk touched on the importance of everyone buying into the idea of antiracism and not just doing the minimum. I learned how looking at this situation from different perspectives can help us understand the obstacles to doing this type of work. I am excited to continue to look at how we can focus on equity and what that means. We have lots of people focused on providing tangible solutions for our community."

Junior Amazan
Wrestling Program Head

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Diversity Council Meeting


December 10, 2020

"Fairness has always been important to me, and I really don’t like the idea that any of my students feel less seen or heard or accepted than anyone else. This has led me to do a lot of self-reflection, attend conferences, read books, etc., which led me to want to be part of this group of like-minded people hoping we can work on these issues at our school. I enjoy the fact that these meetings allow me to interact with people from both campuses and all departments while sharing a common cause. The participants were all there for similar reasons, but there were individuals representing many cultures, religions, ethnicities, genders, orientations, departments, and ages. I came away feeling that I’m not alone in this work and that, while it will never be completed, each time we discuss and question things we move one step forward."

Geoff Robertson
Middle School Science Teacher

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HW Alumni Book Club featuring Jacob Soboroff on his book, Separated: Inside an American Tragedy


November 30, 2020

"I grew up with Jacob, so it was interesting to see how he has combined his interest in civic issues with his ability to tell stories. Jacob's focus on the fact that we all bear a collective responsibility, and that this is not a partisan issue, was very important. Another thing I took away from the event is the importance of acting as an observer and being as unbiased as possible when reporting."

Jessica Richman '01

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Empower Meeting Featuring Yahlin Chang P'24, writer for The Handmaid's Tale


November 18, 2020

"I am an avid fan of The Handmaid's Tale, so I loved the opportunity to get an inside look into the writer's room. As Ms. Chang said, many things that happen in The Handmaid’s Tale are things that are really happening. I left the presentation with a stronger drive to learn about the unimaginable things women are experiencing throughout the world. What I remember most is Ms. Chang's honesty. She was not scared to admit how her career has affected her personal life or mental health and showed vulnerability throughout the discussion."

Olivia Smith '21
Co-Leader of Empower 

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Inaugural Harvard-Westlake Jewish Family Alliance Meeting Featuring Dr. Stephen Smith of the USC Shoah Foundation


November 16, 2020

"I appreciate that there is a like-minded community of people with whom we can connect in a way that is aligned with Harvard-Westlake's mission. The Jewish Family Alliance is an opportunity to create dialogue and connections about our experiences and the values our heritage shares with other communities at HW. What stood out about this meeting was Dr. Stephen Smith’s personal story of how he emerged from a coal-mining community to devote himself to the cause of educating the world about genocide. I’m grateful to the school and the organizers for putting this together."

Theodore Rand P'22
Harvard-Westlake Jewish Family Alliance member

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Cinema Sundays featuring Angela Bassett on Black Panther


November 15, 2020

"What stood out to me most about what Angela Bassett had to say was her thoughts and emotions leading up to the premiere of Black Panther. Her words brought me to realize how deeply personal that experience was for her individually in addition to the personal meaning of the movie for all Black Americans. I walked away with a greater understanding of her career and a new list of must-see movies! She really was inspiring."

Spencer Flippen '21

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SLIDE Training Led by Janine Hancock Jones and the DEI Team


October 30, 2020

"We learned a lot about intersectionality, but the most important part was the conversation between student leaders. Students in every grade engaging in conversation is something we don't see a lot at Harvard-Westlake, and it was really awesome to learn about clubs at the upper school. I left the training with such a clear understanding of what I want to change about the way I lead. My co-leaders and I are going to make sure we let people talk more in our meetings because now we understand the value of as much conversation as possible."

Ella Jacobs '24
Co-Leader of the Ms. "Simon Says" Girls Club

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Courtney Vance at the MS 9th grade class meeting on Fences


October 27, 2020

"I was so excited to have Mr. Vance share his story with our students. Most of the students had seen the clip in class of him as Cory in the 'how come you ain’t never liked me' scene from Fences (Act 1, Scene 3), so they were already familiar with his role and his acting. I appreciated that the students asked some really thoughtful questions that got to the heart of Cory's character and sought insight into Mr. Vance's inspiration and experience on stage in what became such an influential play. I enjoyed hearing his story about how he found out about the part of Cory from a posting in the library and how this role really launched his career. It was inspiring for our students to hear how he went from an unknown acting student to winning theater awards for his debut performance."

Karen Fukushima
Middle School Dean & History/Social Studies Teacher

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Anti-Bias & Anti-Racism (ABAR) 101


October 27, 2020

"ABAR 101 came about as a way to teach people the basics of anti-bias and anti-racism. These concepts get thrown around all the time, and yet go undefined. How do we do the work without knowing our connection to these systems? Anti-bias work starts at the individual level, so at the first meeting, we looked at our identities and got to know ourselves on a deeper level without judgment. I think this work is important for everyone. Even the most aware people can learn more about themselves and the world around them. Every time I attend a workshop that focuses on myself—whether that's an ABAR workshop or yoga or professional development—I learn something new that can help me become a better teacher or person, that can help me become closer to my authentic self."

Juliet Suess 
Middle School English and Communications Teacher

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Brown Bag Lunch: Fierce Conversations Part 2 Led by Yutopia Essex & Reb Limerick in collaboration with division heads and the DEI team


October 26 & 27, 2020

"I enjoyed watching the HW leaders in role-playing demonstrations and found them to be vulnerable and open. One faculty member role-played asking a student for more participation in the classroom. Another was an administrator answering questions about grading and the choices of books in the curriculum. It’s not easy to have an answer for every challenge, but it was refreshing to see the exchange of ideas and tips. I interact with so many people and tend to want to give advice, but I learned from the book Fierce Conversations that the best gift you can give someone is the purity of your attention without interruption. One of the bright spots this fall has been the creation of the HW Parents DEI Parent Committee. The book Fierce Conversations has been helpful as we navigate subjects that will continue to evoke fierce conversations."

Portia Collins P'97 '97
Parents' Activities Liaison

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Japanese Language & Culture Club Meeting featuring Robert Kikkawa


October 20, 2020

"Mr. Kikkawa's story left us speechless, as every word was full of pain, hope, and wisdom. Mr. Kikkawa's compelling story about his life at the internment camps and the hardships he was forced to face made us realize how blessed we are. Stories like Mr. Kikkawa's are what make our roles as JLCC leaders even more engaging. We love spreading the Japanese culture to others and are always grateful for these experiences."

Nicole Lee '24 JLCC Leader

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Pollyanna Conference 2020 - Courageous Conversations: Learning to Connect Authentically and with Compassion


October 17, 2020

"Our keynote speaker, Baratunde Thurston, was riveting. Not only did his message hit some profound notes about the challenges we face in 2020 America, but he also offered words of solace and empowerment to effect change. It felt like a conversation, not a speech; he drew us in with his personal anecdotes and candor. I also appreciated the honesty, humor, and willingness to share—even it meant being vulnerable—of the participants in the small group sessions. I will take away the idea that what we say (and don’t say) and what we do (and don't do) has an immediate and sometimes long-lasting impact on our colleagues and students. I will work harder to be an empathetic listener and model that in my classrooms. I will continue to encourage my students to listen, not simply hear what others are saying. I will encourage them to ask questions, because we don't know what we don't know."

Cathy James 
Middle School English Teacher

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LGBTQIA+ Annual Safe Space Training, led by Dr. Nate Cardin, upper school science teacher


October 8, 2020

"I realized the importance of the school community for LGBTQIA+ students and that, for some students, it can be the only place where they feel safe expressing their identity, especially during quarantine. I took away a renewed dedication to regularly checking in with my students to better understand what they are experiencing in their lives and all that they are negotiating in these times. I also appreciated the information on all of the school organizations that support the HW LGBTQIA+ community." 

Michele Spears
Upper School Performing Arts Teacher

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Brown Bag Lunch: Fierce Conversations Part 1


September 30 & October 1, 2020


"Reading Fierce Conversations is an eye opener. It gives you so many good tips on how to have necessary but difficult conversations. The Brown Bag was educational and engaging. We were able to go into a breakout room and practice the tools that we learned from the book. In a difficult situation, the first thing we often do is to assume bad intentions. It’s best to ask questions in order to know exactly what the other person meant to say or do. If you don’t ask, then you may draw the wrong conclusions about what the person really means."

Dulce Perloff
Bookstore Associate

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Peer Support & Prefect Council anti-bias training with Liza Talusan


September 25, 2020

"The number one thing I remember is an activity where we determined the aspects of our identities that are closest to and furthest from us. It was super eye-opening. I realized that the things I put on the outermost circle tended to line up with my subconscious biases. Sometimes it's hard to get at your deepest prejudices, but this exercise helped me realize that everyone has stuff like that and get a better hold on those biases and maybe work through them. It’s easy to think that you’re a great leader because you lead a certain type of person well, but when you really start to think about the diversity of perspectives and struggles among your peers and the people you lead, you realize how much room there is to grow. The most important part of being a leader is realizing that we all have to work together to make a space for communication and support. You have to do the hard work to be a better leader for everyone."

Shanti Hinkin '22
Peer Support Trainee

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Community Flex Time featuring Wes Moore


September 18 & 29, 2020

"Wes Moore was engaging and funny and charismatic even over Zoom and even in the face of describing his own struggles as a Black man. His storytelling was powerful and moving, and more than once, I got emotional about his story and the lessons he was describing. His commentary about our country and the need for education was deeply intertwined in his own journey, the combination both inspiring and humbling. Mr. Moore highlighted the need for the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion for everybody at our school. By emphasizing the intersection of education and equitable society, he reminded me that there is no better place to start than in the classroom, and to have it addressed in such a thoughtful way felt galvanizing. I am also pleased that we got to do discussion rooms after. Even if it was awkward, I think giving the entire school community space to reflect on this speaking was important and even more necessary with our current Zoom format.' 

Mia Shelton '21

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DEI Training During New Faculty Orientation


August 13 & 14, 2020

"I was impressed with how deeply the HW community cares about the lived experiences of its students, faculty, and staff, especially around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our training challenged us to confront inherent bias and systemic racism, and to become more empathic and curious listeners. As one of our facilitators explained, this type of interpersonal training is difficult, but the reward is that it humanizes all of us. I'm excited to be joining a community so committed to this work. I left the training feeling confident that I had new skills to help me better understand and support my students. I also felt energized by the new perspectives that I gained on the subjects that I teach and methods for engaging students in challenging conversations. As a result of this training I adopted a new mantra for this year—'practice curiosity' and 'listen to learn.'"

Peter Sheehy
Upper School History Teacher

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SLIDE Town Hall on Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor


May 28, 2020

"After Ahmaud Arbery was shot, SLIDE wanted to create a space for Black students to reflect and heal—and also open space for others to hear about the Black experience. Then George Floyd was murdered right before the meeting. This was the first time I'd seen anyone killed. It was so painful after seeing so much violence against so many Black people for so long. We'd thought there would be 20 or 30 people, but the turnout was more than 160—mainly faculty. It felt like more of Harvard-Westlake was on my side than I thought. What really made an impact was the people writing to me—'Cameron, I’m proud of you, I hear you, I see you'—and adding their own reflections. It lit a fire under me and energized me and a lot of other people that maybe we can finally make some long overdue structural changes at Harvard-Westlake and in this country. We’re making plans and keeping the momentum going."

Cameron Herring
Co-Leader of SLIDE (Student Leadership in Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity)

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Brando Skyhorse’s Author Visit to Jenna Dillon-Gasparino's English III: Living America Class


May 27, 2020

"Mr. Skyhorse’s description of [the role of] race in the USA, and in LA specifically, led to some interesting discussion about passing and cultural norms, as well as about how attainable the American Dream is for minorities in America. I learned a lot about the population of LA and the history of the city, which impacts the modern day in so many ways. Mr. Skyhorse was extremely friendly, interesting, and informative, and the wisdom that he shared from the events of his life was universal. I definitely came out of the discussion feeling like I had even more to think about than when I came in.'

Daniel Novikov '21
Student facilitator for the talk

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ASiA (Asian Students in Action) Brown Bag Lunch


May 27, 2020

"What stood out most was how enthusiastic the faculty was to attend the event and ask questions. I also appreciated the fact that our panel of eight (including two from the middle school) represented a wide portion of the Asian American population, which itself is an incredibly diverse group. We had panelists from four different clubs (ASiA, South Asian Student Association, Japanese Language and Culture Club, and Asian American Culture Club). Events like this hold so much power because they open up a direct line of communication with educators and have the potential to inspire change--or even just let teachers know when they are already doing a great job."

Justin Park '20
ASiA leader

MS Multicultural Week


May 11-15, 2020

"I am the founder and co-president of SASA (South Asian Students Association), which is a branch of the Asian American Culture Club. The AACC’s Multicultural Day had an emphasis on food--how comfort foods make us feel, and how they connect us to a culture that second- or third-generation Americans may feel far removed from. Obviously, though, we couldn’t share our favorite Asian foods with others via Zoom. Instead, we played a game similar to online Pictionary. Our theme was Asian foods, which we discussed as we drew. This allowed us to share our personal experiences with our favorite Asian foods and play a fun game at the same time. In the AACC meeting, and from what I’ve heard from other club leaders, there was a phenomenal turnout of at least two Zoom pages of people tuning in and engaged in the activities for every meeting."

Nilufer Mistry Sheasby
South Asian Students Association (branch of the Asian American Culture Club) co-president

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Virtual Upper School Multicultural Week


May 4-8, 2020

"As wonderful as the energy of the in-person multicultural fair is, I actually enjoyed parts of this experience more--because there was only one club meeting at any given time, you weren't flitting from table to table, and instead got the sense that you were experiencing the programming the club had prepared in its entirety. Gender & Sexuality Alliance's in-school booth would have been a lot of candy and music, but in the virtual setup we did a much more subdued 'object show and tell' where participants presented an object or keepsake that was important to them or their identity. It was still fun, just different."

Felicity Phelan '21
Gender & Sexuality Awareness Leader 

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Coach Mel Tucker (head football coach for Michigan State University) and HW athletics staff virtual meeting


May 4, 2020

"This was my first time meeting Coach Tucker, but I have always been a fan. The biggest thing I took from his talk was the importance of being true to yourself. Being a head coach, you get faced with tough decisions, and it’s important to stick to who you are and what you believe."

Aaron Huerta
Football Program Head & Physical Education Teacher

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Parent Affinity Group Virtual Chat & Connect hosted by the DEI Office


April 29, 2020

"Connecting within and among the affinity groups provided support in these hard times via sharing our experiences, offering to help each other out, and getting to know ourselves better in this unusual context. [HW parents' activities liaison] Portia Collins is a master at bringing us together and creating a sense of community. The importance of human connection is what always stands out, the feeling of being part of something. We would love more HW families to join our clubs. You don’t need to identify with a certain culture to be a part of a club; everyone is welcome."

Mariana Dietl
Head of Latino Parents Association (LAPA)

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Middle School Black Leadership and Culture Club (BLACC) virtual meeting with Bre-Z


April 22, 2020

"At first it was really nerve-wracking to have Bre-Z on a Zoom meeting with us because I had just binged every episode of All American with my sister over spring break and am a huge fan of the show. But I soon noticed that her words could inspire anyone. She was so chill. You can just tell by the way she talks that she has a big heart. She’s a great person to look up to if you’re an aspiring actor or just want good life advice."

Crystin Herring '25
Co-Leader of BLACC