4 Ways to Find a Boarding School that Prioritizes Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
A defining feature of boarding schools is the community. Students come from a wide range of backgrounds, so they are going to classes, living, and eating with individuals from many cultures. For a lot of students, going to a boarding school is a great opportunity to meet peers with experiences and perspectives different from their own. It gives them the chance to build social maturity, open their minds to other cultures, and learn how to work with people from all walks of life.
In fact, the pillars of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion might outrank all other perks of choosing a boarding school over traditional school. According to this Forbes article, students, teachers, and boarding school grads said “living in a diverse, close knit community was the most important benefit” closely followed by “the opportunity for deep friendships with students from around the world.” Here are four ways you can make a concerted effort to find a boarding school that prioritizes DE&I.
Effective DE&I efforts start at the top. Boarding schools know that focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion serves the whole learner and creates a sense of belonging that transcends learning differences and builds an abiding feeling of pride. The best schools will strive to provide an environment that cultivates and celebrates diversity within the community.
While researching boarding schools, pay close attention to the institution’s core values, methodology, and curriculum. Do their statements emphasize diversity, inclusion, and character development? Does the curriculum align with stated values and offer your child opportunities to be enlightened, challenged, and globally-minded? You can also ask the counselors or advisors about the school’s offerings that empower students to learn, grow, and champion the core attributes that define true leadership, which include empathy, understanding, and teamwork.
“We pride ourselves in providing resources for [our students] to celebrate their cultural backgrounds, embrace their differences as well as educate others,” says Asha Bartholomew, Student Engagement Manager at IMG Academy. “With such a large international pool … it is our priority to acknowledge the diverse population, support them and contribute to their development in various areas.”
Because they do not have to live nearby to attend, boarding school students come from all over the country and the world. Your student’s peers will be the people they study with, practice with, and live with. By attending a boarding school with a diverse student body, your child will be immersed in a global, culturally-rich environment.
When interviewing prospective campuses, inquire about the population. It is likely that DE&I is not a priority if there are not international or diverse students represented in the demographics. For example, during the 2020-2021 year, IMG Academy had a student body with 26% international students, in total representing 60+ countries. Living with students from a variety of backgrounds helps children learn acceptance, how to respect differences, and even learn the basics of another language as well as other cultures’ customs.
Teacher and Staff Demographics
As they’re the people in charge, it’s important to look for diversity among teachers and staff members. Their leadership is crucial to ensuring a diverse and inclusive environment for students. By hiring illustrious names that are not necessarily diverse, an institution can succeed in enhancing student’s intellect but fail to prepare them for “the real world” by not including DE&I training. Employing DE&I staff helps to ensure students are in a quality learning environment that encourages them to succeed holistically.
Read about or talk to the boarding school’s teachers and staff to get a sense of their backgrounds and experiences. The faculty forms the core of a much greater academic support team that includes parents, administrators, coaches, residential mentors, and campus life staff members, all of whom work tirelessly to positively impact academic, athletic, and character growth for the students.
Opportunities to Engage: How Institutions Bring Their Principles to Life
The boarding school experience is about more than just the curriculum. Campus life includes character-building programs and activities that create an undeniable bond between students. While many students will focus these activities on their interests, it’s important to assess if the institution offers variety that speaks to a diverse student body – and therefore diverse interests.
Check out the clubs, organizations, student unions, and cultural events the school offers throughout the year. If students are constantly given the opportunity to explore new outlets for creative, social, or leadership enhancement, they will be able to grow into more well-rounded, adaptable individuals.
Some examples from IMG Academy include:
- G.I.R.L.S Club: helping young ladies express themselves and create an environment where they can empower themselves and each other
- EDC Club: Building awareness, education and consciousness around cultural diversity in today’s society
- Jewish Culture Club: Community to celebrate and educate others on the Jewish culture
- Black Student Union: Creating a safe space for students and allies to discuss and explore topics of black lives
- Global Activism series: Series that focuses on The United Nations sustainable development goals, global public health, human rights and access to justice, and diversity, inclusion & equality
- Cultural celebrations: International week, Black history, Hispanic Heritage, Chinese New Year, etc.
In today’s world, we’re more connected globally than ever before. Having the mental agility to professionally maneuver conflict and contrasting views will undoubtedly set your child apart from the pack. The value of attending a boarding school that prioritizes Diversity, Equity & Inclusion cannot be overstated. It is a formative, life-changing advantage that will shape students into more empathetic, accountable, and culturally-aware young adults prepared for all the joys and challenges their lives will hold.
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