Diversity at friends: are we really all unified?

Nick Urick, Editor in Chief

     This semester at Friends, a topic of considerable discussion has been diversity, and the aspects of school-life that relate to it; with the current politically strenuous environment in the U.S., many students have began to question the extent to which diversity related issues play a major role in academic settings. This is partially a result of the ending of the current college admissions season, and the prompt beginning of the following one. In response to this fervent dialogue, the Diversity Club at Friends has become much more prevalent in the community. Recently, the club started open-forum ‘We Are One’  discussions during lunch that serve as outlets for students who are passionate about certain diversity related topics. In these discussions, all students in the high school are invited to provide their input on a certain prompt that the club clerks, Zoe Holden ’20, Jadyn Elliott ’20, and Nick Urick ’20 provide. The goal of this sort of dialogue is to bring together the student body in an effort to create a much more diversity-conscious environment, while also sparking important conversations. Thus far, these discussions have been effective in creating constructive conversation as well as allowing students at Friends to discuss an integral question: To what extent can we, as students, play a role in improving diversity related issues in schools?

     The first ‘We Are One’ open-forum discussion at Friends focused on diversity related issues in academic settings. While the students did discuss these issues within the context of Wilmington Friends itself, they also considered the role that diversity plays in higher education. During this discussion, students were invited to reflect on the current function of diversity in higher educational settings and the way that it plays a role in the college admissions process. This conversation occurred shortly after the college admissions season at Friends came to a conclusion, which thus drew in a wide variety of students, each with a unique perspective on the controversial topic. In a conversation regarding this specific ‘We Are One’ discussion, Jadyn Elliott ’20, clerk of the Diversity Club and attendee of the conversation, commented on the outcomes of the open-forum and its inherent importance. “I believe it was really important for our school to have a discussion on how and why diversity is important in academic and professional settings, but also touch on its role in the admissions process. We discussed the fact that some students’ abilities to attend selective universities can vary because they did not receive a great education because of where they grew up and/or what their families could provide them. So, sometimes the classes one takes or the score one receives does not show the whole picture. Schools look at the whole application when admitting students and sometimes a big “hook” can be diversity.  Something really interesting that we talked about in our diversity talk was, Does one’s “diversity hook” mean they did not have merit? Does academic eligibility for selective universities have to look identical? I thought the conversation was very thoughtful and eye-opening, and I encourage others to join for our next one.” Here, Elliott reflects on the conversation and brings about topics that were of specific controversy in the discussion. It is clear that the students considered both the importance of diversity in academic settings, as well as how it often may play a role in the admission process. Evidently, this part of the open forum was effective in its efforts to spark integral conversation regarding diversity related issues in settings that are becoming increasingly relevant to the student body.

     Further, as the conversation continued, students began to focus on the role that diversity plays in the community at Friends specifically. This topic has always been one of great discussion at WFS, yet hadn’t been considered in a centralized setting until recently. Thus, students were very appreciative to have an outlet to share their feelings regarding diversity at Friends, and potentially how it could be further improved. During a conversation with Carter Gramiak ’21, an attendee of the discussion, Gramiak stated “I’ve always considered the role that diversity plays in the community at Friends. Generally, I feel that our school is fairly diverse, but I think that there is some things that we could do to improve the way that we handle diversity related issues. Because of this, it was very interesting to be in a setting where I could hear all of my peers discuss the role that diversity plays in the community, as well as how this role has evolved and been altered over the years. I think that the open-forum brought about such a great opportunity for students at the school to get much more in touch with the change that they’d like to see.” Gramiak emphasized the efficacy of the conversation, as well as noted the variety of perspectives that were heard at it. As mentioned by Gramiak, students considered the way that diversity is valued at Friends. In doing so, they were able to reflect on the way that our community functions with regard to the many different types of students that are at the school. The attendees of the discussion looked at diversity in the leadership roles at Friends, the way that diversity related issues are solved, as well as how the social scene at Friends function,  in order to create an accurate evaluation of diversity at Friends. Clearly, this opportunity was appreciated by the students and served a purpose of inherent value.

     Therefore, the Diversity Club at Friends has been effective in bringing attention to a variety of controversial topics that are important to both the school itself, as well as a wide variety of academic settings. However, as the subject of diversity within student bodies is very complex in itself, the issue remains one of controversy. Students still wonder how the role of diversity will evolve in our community, as well as in academic settings across the country. Regardless, the club’s “We Are One” open forum discussions have created centralized opportunities for students to provide their perspectives on issues concerning diversity at the school, and have proven to be effective thus far.