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Posts tagged ‘diversity’

Encountering Differences

Five years ago, a small eastern Connecticut community made headlines for all the wrong reasons. When the town, which is 94 percent white, hosted a high school football game, African American students on the other team were greeted with racial taunts.

Jerry Fisher, who is executive director of the Jewish Federation of Eastern Connecticut, was dismayed not only by the hurtful comments but also by the fact that they went unchallenged.

Attorney Lonnie Braxton, shown here having lunch with students, serves on the board of the New London Public Library, where he runs an annual film festival with significant films relating to African-American history. He has visited nearly every site on the Civil Rights Trail.

“I was anxious to do something to rectify the situation,” Fisher says, “to change things and approach the racism that seemed to be inherent in our towns. It wasn’t the students who were the problem,” he adds. “It was the parents. We wanted to address the way those parents were modeling for their children. And that’s how our program was born.” Read more

CEA Seeks Input from Teachers of Color to Increase Diversity in the Profession

DSC_2558Nearly 40 educators met and mingled at the first-ever Hartford Regional Ethnic Minority Teacher Social hosted by CEA on Monday. The event was an opportunity for teachers of color to network, discuss ways of diversifying a predominantly white teaching force in Connecticut, and explore avenues for becoming more involved at all levels of the union—from their local and state associations to NEA.

“This was a great event,” said CREC teacher Anjanee Wright. “I got to meet other educators I wouldn’t necessarily have a chance to meet because we work in different districts. It was a good opportunity to talk to each other.” Read more

Exploring How Teachers Can Combat the School-to-Prison Pipeline


Connecticut Teacher of the Year Sheena Graham listens in on a discussion about teachers’ roles in addressing the racial imbalance in our juvenile and criminal justice system. Seated with Graham are CEA Vice President Tom Nicholas and Bridgeport Education Association Vice President Ana Batista.

Despite the tremendous progress Connecticut has made in reducing the number of incarcerated youth over the past 10 years, a troubling trend continues: Black and brown children continue to come in contact with the juvenile and criminal justice system in disproportionate numbers compared to their white peers. Studies have confirmed that bias is one factor—meaning that white children are less likely to be referred to the juvenile or criminal justice system than their nonwhite peers, even for the same behaviors.

To address this continued racial imbalance, CEA’s Ethnic Minority Affairs Commission (EMAC) hosted a film screening of CPTV’s Color of Justice Revisited, followed by a discussion—led by experts in their fields—about how educators can help end the school-to-prison pipeline. More than 60 educators attended the event at Testo’s Ristorante in Bridgeport on April 25. Read more

Lyman Memorial Students Learn Through Sharing With Peers

Liza Escott stands between seniors

Diversity Coordinator and English teacher Liza Escott stands between Lebanon students Emily Campbell (at left), and Emmarhia Wylie during Lyman Memorial High’s Diversity Fair. The students were running the bullying booth, which was part of Campbell’s senior project.

“They’d never get an opportunity like this in the classroom,” Liza Escott said as she looked around at the hundreds of students sharing and learning from one another at Lyman Memorial High School’s Diversity Fair.

A student committee planned the fair that involved the entire Lebanon school’s community last week. Students ran the majority of the 35-plus booths and had the opportunity to share their interests with their peers and teachers.

“I was most impressed with how many students wanted to host a booth and share a personal interest with other students and teachers,” said Escott, the school’s diversity coordinator and an English teacher.

Escott said that the fair teaches students confidence in presenting and allows older students to be positive role models for younger ones. “A lot of time and effort goes into putting the booths and presentations together,” she said.

Lebanon Education Association President Kevin Brodie stands with (from left) at the Gay Straight Alliance Table. Brodie is one of the advisor for the club, which i

Lebanon Education Association President Kevin Brodie stands with Melissa Bragg (at left) and Sarah Pavlich at the Gay Straight Alliance Table during the Diversity Fair. Brodie is one of the advisers for the club, which is the school’s largest.

Lebanon Education Association President Kevin Brodie, a history teacher at the school, said that students design the booths so that each has an interactive activity for visitors to complete.

The fair ran for a few years in the mid-2000s but was cut due to a lack of funds. In 2011, Brodie and Escott resurrected the fair with grant funding from CEA and other partners.

Thanks to Brodie and Escott, the fair is no longer an isolated, one-day event, but part of a year-long diversity program. The students chose, “The Power of One” as this year’s theme, and other events included participation in Connecticut’s Youth Forum and visits from a number of guest speakers, including Connecticut Comptroller Kevin Lembo. On May 14, Paul Rusesabagina, who protected 1,268 people during the Rwandan Genocide as portrayed in the film “Hotel Rwanda,” will speak at the school.

A Diversity of Interests

Lyman students presented on a wide variety of interests that included sports, languages, dance, religions, self-wellness, Anime, and Relay for Life. The Lyman community also invited students from the Norwich Free Academy to come and share their countries and/or cultures of origin.

Emily Campbell, at right, talks to Lyman Memorial students visiting the booth she organized on bullying.

Emily Campbell, at right, talks to Lyman Memorial students visiting the booth she organized on bullying.

Lyman seniors Emmarhia Wylie and Emily Campbell ran a booth on bullying that was popular with many students. Wylie said she was interested in the subject because “I have gone through bullying myself, and I’ve seen a lot of bullying at Lyman.”

Campbell said that she was bullied in middle school and has seen the hard time that her brother has experienced as well. She designed her senior project about bullying because “I felt passionate about doing something about the issue.”

The bullying booth changed students’ perspectives by asking them to write a negative name that they have been or could be called on a name tag and to wear it all day. Wylie said that the name tags were all gone in the first five minutes.

Brodie said that the student response to the fair has been very positive in recent years. “And there are lots of staff members involved,” he said. “Even if they’re not helping to run a booth, they’re here supporting the students.” Brodie added, “The positive response is why we keep doing it.”

Aeden Lake said she chose Buddhism as the theme for her booth because her family has background in Buddhism and she has found the philosophy usfule in her life. "I though I could show anyone lese Buddhisma dn they feel the way i do about it that would be great."

Aedan Lake chose the theme for her booth because she was introduced to Buddhism by her family growing up, and she has found Buddhism’s philosophy useful in her life. “I thought that if I could share Buddhism with others, they might come to feel the same way that I do about it, and that would be great,” she said.

Fernanda Mastroluca, originally from Brazil, wanted to see how many of her peers knew about the famous soccer players Pelé, from Brazil, and Maradona, from Argentina — and if they had an opinion as to who was the better player.


Casey Disotell, standing, shared her love of racing with other Lyman students. She said, “I strongly believe that women have the right to race. I’m a racer myself. It’s not just Danica Patrick — there are lots of women racing in NASCAR leagues. We’re strong.” Disotell has been accepted to attend the University of Northwestern Ohio in the fall to become a high-performance technician.


Friends, from left, Derek Seidl, Kyle Barrett, and Nick McAneny started a FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) club at their school because they enjoy playing soccer, watching Major League Soccer and professional teams from around the world, and playing the FIFA Soccer video game. The students said that, because Lyman Memorial is such a small school, there is no football team and soccer is the main sport.


Jessica Quimby, at left, and Emma Teed showed other students how do a series of yoga poses known as a Sun Salutation. They said that other students started practicing yoga last year after visiting the booth.