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Fostering Inclusivity at Wardlaw+Hartridge

Fostering Inclusivity at Wardlaw+Hartridge
Gerard Gonnella

Here at The Wardlaw+Hartridge School, the word inclusivity means that you are given the opportunities to simply be yourself.

This month I have invited Angela Pellegrino, ELL instructor and international student mentor, to share first-hand about inclusivity in our classrooms. She has a unique perspective on witnessing cultural competency unfold before her very eyes. Domestic and international students are working together as one student body. 

Best regards,
Gerard R. Gonnella
Director of Admission and Financial Aid
Director of the International Student Program

Here at The Wardlaw+Hartridge School, the word inclusivity means that you are given the opportunities to simply be yourself. It means that despite you not always conforming to society’s standards, you are unapologetically you. Inclusivity means feeling safe, being supported, and celebrating the treasure that you are. 

While there are many variations of this word and a plethora of individual definitions, I find that oftentimes a single commonality focuses on differences. Inclusion means accepting others’ differences and simply being “okay” that they don’t match yours. People are often intimidated by this as differences are, well, different. But rather than focus on the “scare factor” of differences, why not shift our mindset to the idea of celebrating them? To do this, however, we must take a look inside ourselves, have a difficult but honest conversation, and determine our own biases or hesitations. Only then can we see others’ differences as a gift to be celebrated. 

At Wardlaw+Hartridge, inclusivity is ever-present and is something we, as a school, encourage. In working and interacting with our international students daily, I am not only able to hear about inclusion but can witness it first-hand. When our students, both international and domestic, come together on class assignments, during lunchtime discussions, or special days of celebration, I can witness inclusivity at its finest. Just a few short weeks ago, while celebrating Lunar New Year, we had students from many backgrounds come together, put aside their differences, and focus on learning from one another. Observing in classes, I am also able to experience the wonders of students, who come from many different walks of life, work together to reach a common goal. 

There are many ways in which we can foster inclusivity and break down the walls of intimidation and here at W+H, we strive to teach them through example. For one, creating a safe and supportive environment helps everyone feel they are welcome. By simply providing a space where someone feels comfortable has the potential to change the dynamic of an entire day. Secondly, focusing on questions such as “What can I teach others about myself, my culture, my way of life?” or “How can I contribute to the idea of including others?” goes a long way in attending to the need of being inclusive and breaking down any barriers that we have created. Finally, communicating with others and taking the time to get to know their true selves helps to foster inclusion. The more you take the time to get to know others, the more in-tune you become to what they need in terms of support. Scary, yes but worth it? Absolutely. 

As I ponder my thoughts on inclusion, I reach out to you with some final questions for reflection. What are you doing to allow others to see you? How are you able to overcome the differences among people in your own life? Furthermore, how will you continue to foster inclusivity and be an example for generations to come? By talking, people learn; by teaching, people understand; by modeling, people do. If your goals include future generations putting words into action, our school might just be the perfect place to practice and witness inclusivity.