Diversity workshop welcomes student dialogue

Goal is to educate both hearts and minds, Barlow says

The+EMBRACE+Club+was+represented+at+last+year%27s+activities+fair.+

Cathedran file photo

The EMBRACE Club was represented at last year’s activities fair.

Tory Basile, Reporter

This summer, in light of the social and political upheaval for racial justice that was ignited across the country, Mr. Ken Barlow ‘82, vice president for community relations and diversity, with the help of Mrs. Jean Smith, director of philanthropic engagement, created Safe Space forums, which welcomed dialogue and open-mindedness both within and for the school community. 

To continue the spirit of these forums into the school year, Barlow and Smith, as well as Ms. Ashley Hill, director of Holy Cross integration, and Principal Mrs. Julie Barthel, designed the Sept. 10 inclusivity and diversity workshop, named after one of the Holy Cross core values.

Barlow explained the intention behind the program, saying, “It is my prayer that we not only educate minds but also hearts in this work. Our purpose is to try and ensure that all who come to the Hill feel valued and welcome.”

He prepared for the informational workshop by helping teachers guide their students, organizing a Kahoot quiz for students that focused inclusivity and diversity lexicon, as well as filming a video on community norms, or empathy principles, with the assistance of the Empowering More to Become Representatives Advocating for a Commitment to Equity or EMBRACE Club.

Senior Whitley Walton, EMBRACE Club president, was one of several students involved in the video’s creation. Walton, who described one of the community norms in the video, explained that she hoped the program “opened students and staff’s eyes to how we can easily try to put people into different categories and boxes based on their appearance only, but never know how that person identifies themselves on a deeper level.” 

It is my hope to effectively connect with other clubs with diversity platforms.”

— Mr. Ken Barlow

Moving forward, Barlow said that he anticipates what he called “more inclusivity and diversity workshops throughout the year. It is my hope to effectively connect with other clubs with diversity platforms to help educate our school holistically.”

Directly referencing EMBRACE, he noted that given the group’s status as an umbrella club, its “goal (is) to not only carry the torch of inclusivity, diversity and equity but to also play a supporting role for all other affinity clubs with a diversity platform.” These affinity clubs — Black Student Union, Latino Student Union and Allianc,e for example — are currently limited to meeting virtually.

For clubs like EMBRACE, their mission may be more crucial than ever this year. Walton reflected upon this, saying, “Due to recent events in our country, the biggest goal I have for EMBRACE is to help others see both sides of the coin of life. It’s very easy to ignore a problem that doesn’t affect you or to stay rooted in your own beliefs, but our country has to grow and change from such mindsets.

“It starts here at Cathedral, and I want EMBRACE to give students that opportunity to look outside of themselves and realize that there are problems bigger than them, but they have the power to speak up and create the change that needs to happen.”