Visual Arts Teaching Fellow Sahar Al-Sawaf has an incredible story to tell. It’s so important to her that as a filmmaker and animator she is inspired to tell it again and again in different ways. But it wasn’t always a story she felt comfortable telling.
Equity and Inclusion
GFA’s commitment to building and nurturing an inclusive community is core to our mission. We believe:
- a diverse faculty, staff, and student body benefits and enriches all members of our community and is critical to meeting our educational aim of preparing students for their futures;
- our curriculum and co-curricular program must teach our students global competency and to espouse the habits, skills, and attitudes necessary to live and thrive in a multicultural and interconnected world;
- our community must be a place where all voices are heard, respected, and valued.
We can promote inclusion by gleaning information about the people around us. This allows us to feel empathy for even the people we currently think it is impossible to relate to.
liam king '18
- Workshops: Regular grade-level work with students during advisory, assembly, and afternoon times addressing identity, empathy, diversity, and inclusion
- English Readings: Readings in English classes exploring identity and equity
- Spoken Word Poetry: A weekend Spoken Word Poetry program in collaboration with Horizons @ GFA and visiting poets
- Spectrum Club: A student-led group that discusses identity and fostering inclusion. Conversations explore social identifiers like race, culture, and gender in an effort to learn more about their role in students' lives and experiences.
- Ninth Grade Teaching Tolerance Seminar: a required, seven-week seminar program exploring Teaching Tolerance standards
- LEAP: an inclusive student club dedicated to improving our community and exploring equity and inclusion issues
- Courses: A number of courses throughout the curriculum focused on equity and inclusion
- Conferences: students attend the national Student Diversity Leadership Conference and several other workshops throughout the year
- Equity & Social Justice Seminar: a Saturday program at GFA bringing together current students and alumni from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds
Director of Equity and Inclusion
Building an inclusive community is everybody’s job, and several faculty members have taken the lead as division coordinators to organize and spearhead our efforts:
Upper School Diversity and Equity Coordinators
Michaela Pembroke & Melanie Haas
Middle School Diversity and Equity Coordinators
Lower School Diversity and Equity Coordinators
We are proactive — as opposed to being reactive — and create lessons that get to the heart of inclusion matters such as bias and stereotypes.
aléwa cooper, head of lower school
It is striking that a man often invited to speak at diversity conferences doesn’t like the word diversity. Dr. Derrick Gay points to the inherent problem in calling some people “diverse,” as it assumes there is a normal, and that they are different from it. “Let’s either reclaim the word diversity,” he says, “or chuck it and talk instead about inclusivity and community.” Last year he brought his message of inclusivity to the GFA community and will continue the discussion throughout this school year.
Shanelle Henry will join the GFA community as the school’s new Director of Equity and Inclusion. An educator and leader in her field, Henry has spent much of the last 20 years working on issues of equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice in independent and public schools, colleges and universities, non-profit, corporate and law enforcement agencies and corporations.
“I felt welcomed the moment I stepped through the courtyard,” she said. “The air was filled with curiosity and excitement regarding possibilities for future equity and inclusion work at the school. I was greatly impressed with the community's desire to learn how to raise questions of equity and justice and engage in open and courageous conversations. It is truly an exciting time to be at Greens Farms Academy and I am humbled to be a Dragon!”
Most recently, Henry inaugurated the role of Director of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at Friends Academy (New York) in 2011. There she worked with students, faculty, administrators, parents and board members to provide strategic vision and leadership in the areas of equity, diversity, and inclusion throughout the K-12 school community.
“Shanelle’s experience and extraordinary vision will deepen inclusion and cultural competency at GFA. In her work she ensures that all student voices are heard and respected,” said Head of School Janet Hartwell. “We are all very excited to welcome Shanelle to our school.”
Henry also founded the Institute for Teaching Diversity and Social Justice (IDSJ), an annual summer professional development program, created to give independent school educators the necessary historical framework, interpersonal skills, and anti-bias curriculum development strategies they need to teach a diverse student body, and also prepare them to take active roles in the diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts of independent schools.
In addition to her work in schools, she regularly attends and presents at local and national conferences such as: the People of Color Conference (PoCC), NAIS Annual Conference, Friends Council on Education and the National Association of Multicultural Education (NAME). She serves as an active member of the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) Diversity Committee where she helps develop workshops, conferences, and other diversity resources for teachers and administrators. Henry is also the co-chair of PoCIS-NY (People of Color in Independent Schools in New York), a NYC-based affinity group with a 25+ year history that connects local independent school faculty, administrators and staff of color.
Henry received her B.A. from Smith College, and M.Ed. from the Social Justice Education program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is also the proud mother of two children: Zaire (14) and Sierra (13).