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Building Belonging Through Dialogue

Last month, a group of seniors traveled to the University of Massachusetts Amherst with faculty members, Arlynn Polletta and Nick Soodik to participate in a dialogue with graduate students in the university’s Social Justice Education Program. The workshop focused on the impact of microaggressions and micro-affirmations in cultivating communities of belonging. 

The trip reinforced conversations on campus in the prior week, during which Dr. Rodney Glagow, noted facilitator in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion, presented to students, parents, faculty, and staff about the importance of belonging in the adolescent experience. The overarching goal of both the presentations and the trip was to discover ways to increase the sense of belonging for all members of the Pingree community. 

“Going into the day, I didn’t know what to expect,” said Victoria Holleran ’20. She was excited to find that those leading the conversations gave the students space to share their unique perspectives. “When we have these conversations, adults tend to want to jump in and lead rather than encourage broader conversation.”

“They knew that everyone in the room had different stories and perspectives, and they treated them all as equal,” added Izzy Ferrazza ’20

One of the ways the facilitators showed their appreciation for the students’ participation was in posting micro-affirmations, mini-kindnesses that affirm a person’s worth, around the meeting room. Sticky notes on walls declared, “We are so happy to see you today.” and “All of your ideas and opinions matter to us.” “They made us feel so welcome,” Ferrazza said.

For Savvas Varitimos ’20, participation in the workshop inspired him for the future. “It was inspirational to see others pursuing education in the field, especially because I want to  continue being involved in social justice after high school.”

The students look forward to sharing their takeaways from the workshop in the weeks ahead.