News from the Hilltop

Event fosters partnership between boarding school and HBCUs
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A dynamic new program brought together representatives from boarding schools and historically Black colleges and universities at St. George’s on Sept. 21-24, 2022.

Called “Building Bridges,” the event welcomed students and administrators from Howard University, Spelman College, and Morehouse College for three days of class visits, special presentations, and candid conversations, all with the goal of encouraging college students to consider teaching at an independent school. Dr. Vanessa Cohn Gibbons, chief equity and inclusion officer at Milton Academy; Anika Walker-Johnson, director of residential life at Milton; Tyrone Black, associate head of school at Tabor Academy; and Derek Krein, dean of faculty at Tabor, also participated.

Building Bridges, designed and directed by Admission Associate and Director of Multicultural Recruitment Dwayne Pina, was largely inspired by the work of Dr. Chuck Herring, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the South Fayette Township School District outside Pittsburgh. Mr. Herring also joined us on the Hilltop for Building Bridges and offered his inspirational message about “Fostering Equity & Inclusion One Conversation at a Time.”

Representatives from the HBCUs were Dr. January-Vance, the director of school and university partnerships at Howard University’s School of Education; Dr. Nina Gilbert, director for the Morehouse Center for Excellence in Education; Bria Toussaint, assistant director of academic programs and strategic initiatives at Morehouse College; and Samantha Stewart-Elmore, a consultant and senior advisor for outreach initiatives at Morehouse.

Ten college students attended the program — four from Howard, and three each from Spelman and Morehouse — all with various majors, including political science, music, biology, English, history, economics and education.

To welcome our guests to campus, a cookout was held at Vermillion House, where educators, college students and St. George’s students of color mingled and ate, and even broke out into a spontaneous group dance of the “Cupid Shuffle.”

The first full day of the program began with breakfast with members of St. George’s DEI Steering Committee and a tour of campus with SG student guides. Head of School Alixe Callen and Associate Head of School for Student Life Mervan Osborne then welcomed the group and outlined St. George’s DEI initiatives. Building Bridges, they said, came about as an opportunity to address Goal 1 of St. George’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategic Plan: “Amplify the academic excellence that comes from people of a diversity of experiences and backgrounds sharing their perspectives within a vibrant residential academic community.”

A presentation to help the college student better understand life at boarding school was led by St. George’s Dean of Students Xander Jones, Ms. Walker-Johnson and Mr. Krein. Other sessions led by SG faculty included topics such as faculty professional development, college counseling, and life at predominantly white boarding school as a person of color. A number of St. George’s students of color met with the college students as well.

Day two of the program brought the students from Morehouse, Spelman and Howard to the campuses of Milton and Tabor.

Following the Building Bridges event, Mr. Pina said he was overwhelmed by the amount of support he received while organizing the event. His first conversations with Dr. Herring about the program, he said, began more than a year ago.

“I would like to thank everyone involved with the planning and execution of the inaugural Building Bridges Program,” Mr. Pina said. “The event exceeded all of my expectations, and I feel like it was a transformative experience for the program participants, the St. George's community, and our partner institutions.” 

Dr. Gilbert of Morehouse thanked St. George's for what she called “an amazing visit.”

“It was such a memorable experience for our team and students," she said.Dr. January-Vance of Howard told Mr. Pina she appreciated his vision. “We look forward to partnering with you in the future,” she wrote to him. “The Building Bridges Program is a true testament to the magnitude of work still to come.”

 

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