by Jake Roth, AmeriCorps member serving on the Comcast | NBCUniversal Team with Jeremiah E. Burke High School
PITW #92 - Seek to be as inclusive as possible. Inclusivity is the real test – and ultimate goal – of building the beloved community. Inclusivity means taking diversity one step further by learning to tap everyone’s strengths to achieve goals that are larger than ourselves. A purposeful and inclusive community is more than the sum of its parts.
The idea of inclusivity is extremely relevant in a high school setting—more than one would think. I serve at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester, MA, where students have the ability to reverse misconceptions about themselves at any opportunity. Various examples of students’ inclusive nature permeate through the building on a daily basis, and some of the most interesting instances of students creating community through inclusivity come cross-culturally.
The Burke has a unique demographic make-up in that about 30% of the student body is from Cape Verde, a small island nation off the coast of western Africa. The majority of these students are in the Structured English Immersion (SEI) Academy, which provides students with the tools they need to achieve at the highest level in a language that is foreign to them. One would think that this inherently exclusive set of classes (the immersion aspect of the SEI Academy lends to groups of students only taking classes together) tends to produce segregation within the student body. However, I have personally seen members of the SEI Academy—and former members—share language in order to promote community in the Physics class I support.
A group of students from Cape Verde were having a conversation in their native tongue, Cape Verdean Creole, with each other when another student, not of Cape Verdean descent, made a comment out loud. “I can’t understand them,” she said “Why don’t you just speak English!” Rather than react negatively at this comment about their alleged lack of assimilation, one of the Cape Verdean students took this as an opportunity to teach his fellow student. He began to engage his new friend in a mini-lesson about Cape Verdean Creole. By the end of their interaction, the student was able to ask a question, “Modi bu sta? (How are you?)”, and greet her fellow classmate in the morning, “Bom dia! (Good morning!)” This interaction, along with many others of the same nature, have furthered my belief in the power of young people to see past obvious personal differences in an effort to create their own communities.