As a community that values diversity, we continually strive to find ways to embrace our differences, learn from each other, recognize our commonalities and celebrate our unique identities. For middle school students, growing strong into their own identities and feeling at home in our community are important in a special way, as students become more metacognitive and aware of themselves and the wider world around them. This year we are excited to introduce affinity groups and safe spaces, long a positive staple of our US student community, into MS with the guidance of Dr. Mirangela Buggs, our new Director of Equity and Diversity Engagement.
Affinity groups, or safe-space groups, are formed when a community recognizes the need for people to connect around their experiences as members of social identity groups, particularly those from historically marginalized or minority groups with respect to race, ethnicity and culture, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Affinity/safe space groups can be a vital part of empowering members of minority or marginalized groups in diverse communities. They provide support for emotional well-being and camaraderie around common experiences by giving periodic opportunities for students who have some core common experiences to be together for a short period of time to process and share with each other. People who attend affinity/safe space groups interact with the school community at large almost all of the time; their affinity conversations and connections are relatively infrequent yet offer space for renewal and perspective-taking.
In the winter of 2018, the Middle School will launch two safe-space discussion groups: a Kids of Color affinity group and a Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) safe-space group. The Kids of Color group is for students who have racial minority experiences— students of African descent, Latino/a studies, students of Asian heritage, biracial and multiracial students, etc. The GSA is a space for those who support diversity around gender identity and sexual orientation among middle school students. The discussion groups will meet once a month during lunch and will be facilitated by adults. This winter, Dr. Buggs will lead the Kids of Color group, and Ms. Stott will lead the GSA group with support from Mr. Carrager who also heads up the US GSA and the 7th grade SAGE program.
Student sign-up for affinity groups started the week of January 8th, and we expect to start monthly meetings in February.