Milton Hershey School’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Learning Experiences Build Intentional Awareness
By Fonati Abrokwa ’01, MHS Special Assistant to the President for Diversity and Inclusion
This school year, we are offering Milton Hershey School staff an opportunity to participate in the school’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) journey through Education and Student Life Learning Experiences. We have planned four Learning Experiences, or professional development sessions, throughout the year.
They are designed to:
- Create safe spaces for conversations that lead to growth,
- Provide foundational resources to further advance the school’s DEI efforts,
- Encourage team members to engage in self-reflection through a DEI lens, and
- Build knowledge and increase the school’s DEI organizational capacity.
We held our first Learning Experience in August, which served as an orientation for the series. We introduced participants to the MHS DEI framework, ensured participants knew our sessions are designed to be safe spaces, and reflected on what role we all play in advancing the school’s DEI efforts.
Our second session, held in October, went a step further and focused on how we can leverage emotional intelligence as a tool to help us advance DEI. We split our content into two subjects: Bias and Self-Awareness and Social Awareness.
To begin, we acknowledged that bias exists in all of us and is completely normal. It is how our brains sort between the familiar and the unfamiliar. The key is to quickly identify when these normal brain functions begin to create obstacles in our lives, and counteract and self-check them to ensure we are being fair.
To put this into perspective during the Learning Experience, we used optical illusions to demonstrate that we don’t always see things the way that they are, but rather, sometimes the way that they appear. We then dug into best practices that can be used to overcome these barriers to growth, which led us to watch this TED Talk by novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the issues that arise when we identify people with a singular story.
Later, we challenged participants to think about how we can be more intentional about DEI in our daily lives at MHS to help us achieve equity. A key takeaway from this part of the session was how to distinguish between “equality” and “equity.”
Equality assumes that everyone has the same needs, and thus should receive the same resources. Equity recognizes that people have different needs and purposely directs resources where they are needed most. Viewed through this DEI lens, as MHS team members, we must understand the lived experiences and empathize with the students we serve so we can make responsible decisions about how best to support them.
We have two more Learning Experiences planned for the 2021-22 academic year and are looking forward to the rest of this year’s journey. Stay tuned for our next update!