A Sense of Belonging for All
“Inclusive, Caring Community — we believe in the dignity and worth of all individuals. We embrace diversity, practise equity and foster connection. We lead with empathy to create a sense of belonging for all.”
In June 2020, Lakefield College School launched its LCS Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Task Force consisting of sixteen members drawn from our student, faculty, staff, alumni, and parent communities. The group was mandated to examine all aspects of the curriculum, operations, policies and life of the school to make recommendations aimed at ensuring the principles of DEI be real and lived elements of our culture, and be reflected in everything we do. The task forces’s vision was ultimately to contribute to an environment at LCS that is free from racialization and marginalization, and whose graduates are globally-minded, future-ready individuals who respect one another’s differences.
In one of her electronic updates to our community, last April, Head of School Anne-Marie Kee P ’17 ’19 shared highlights from the final report and recommendations of the DEI Working Group. The report, Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at The Grove, highlighted immediate and medium-term initiatives being undertaken by the school and reflected the recommendations contained within the task force’s report submitted in December of 2020. Highlights of these and other initiatives are reflected on the school’s Diversity & Inclusion section of the website (www.lcs. on.ca/dei) and below.
Lakefield College School has roughly 401 students joining us from over 45 countries and seven provinces. As educators, we believe strongly that young people learn and mature best when they are encouraged to embrace their individuality within a richly diverse and supportive community. We also know that while we welcome students and staff of all cultures, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, gender identities, religions, and sexual orientations—and believe that our community is strengthened by this diversity of perspectives—fostering a truly equitable and inclusive community requires dedication, continual focus, and work. The LCS Leadership Team has committed to examining and strengthening this work across the entire organization, and to ensuring leadership and accountability, programming, policies and processes, and a lived community experience that fully embodies and champions the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion.
DEI initiatives launched in 2020/21:
Awareness, Education, and Training for students and staff
- Student-Led Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Virtual Community Gathering (July 2020)
- “Developing Antiracist Practices in Independent Schools” Virtual Talk: Dr. Derrick Gay (August 2020)
- “Anti-Black Racism and Education” Virtual Talk: Dr. Denise Handlarski (September 2020)
- Cultural Competency/Racial Justice (Faculty) Workshops (Fall 2020):
- “Cultural Competency in Boarding Schools: What Leaders Need to Know” by Rosetta Lee (Recording)
- “Racial Justice and Inclusion in Boarding Schools: Engaging Conversations We are Not Having” by Lawrence Alexander (Recording)
- “A Love Letter from Students of Colour” by Dr. Rodney Glasgow (Recording)
- Gender and Pronouns: Virtual talks and workshops for students and staff with guest facilitator Rafael Daunt (March 2021)
- Gender and Pronouns: From Theory to Practice, faculty workshops (May 2021)
Academic and Community Programming
- Launch of a Student DEI Group focussed on awareness, discussion and action
- DEI-themed curricular enhancements ranging from discussions around Truth and Reconciliation to the theme of “marginalized voices,” Black History, and discussions about racism, privilege, poverty, and more
- New courses added to the 2021/22 curriculum, including “Equity & Social Justice”, “Gender Studies” and “Health & Wellbeing”
- Inclusion of DEI awareness and advocacy workshops during fall Grad Leadership Conference for seniors to discuss strategies for engaging the community
- Heightened emphasis on DEI themes during fall student orientation, including new activities focussed on identity and name pronunciations
- Dedicated chapel, advisor and house community time to develop intercultural competencies on a variety of topics. For example, the Indian Residential School System, Black History Month, gender identities, homophobia and transphobia
- Student-led Global Learning Chapels to share diverse news and personal perspectives, backgrounds and cultures
- Launch of the Indigenous Leadership Bursary (September 2020)
- Launch of Tuition and Affordability Task Force to recommend strategies aimed at making LCS more financially accessible to talented applicants from diverse backgrounds. LCS currently awards a total of $2.3M in needs-based financial assistance to approximately 1 in 3 deserving students
- Enhanced admissions process including applicant’s alignment/commitment to our school values and review/alignment of more inclusive language in student application form (September 2020)
- Review/revision of employee recruitment diversity, equity and inclusion statements, and formal “Acknowledgement of the Land”
One to Two Year (Mid-Term) Initiatives
- Admissions: Review tactics aimed at ensuring LCS is accessible and inclusive to a diverse group of student applicants
- Human Resources: Review HR policies and procedures through a DEI lens and adopting the express goal of working towards our faculty and staff being more reflective of the diversity of our student body and of Canada
- Governance: Continue to review our selection processes to ensure diversity figures prominently among the criteria assessed, and adopting the express goal of working towards governance bodies that are more reflective of the diversity of our school community and students
- Awareness, education, and training: Develop an enhanced, comprehensive, and ongoing program promoting student and staff training, education, and awareness on core aspects of DEI
- DEI redress / complaint procedures: Review our redress policies and procedures for students and staff to ensure they remain reflective of best practices, and that students and staff feel confident in accessing them
- Comprehensive program review and the integration of diversity, equity and inclusion themes across all aspects of our program in a manner that is: seamless, coordinated and aligned; focuses on how our program can grow cultural competencies; and acknowledges and addresses biases, underlying beliefs and values, assumptions, and stereotypes that inhibit opportunity in work and learning environments
- Development of an LGBTQ+ inclusivity strategy (Gender Inclusivity Task force launched Fall 2021)
As a school, we have committed to learning from each other and creating supportive learning structures and opportunities that allow us to lean in to difficult discussions in order to grow our understanding. It is important that every member of our community feels a strong sense of confidence and belonging, reflective of who they are, and that they leave LCS with an understanding of how they can contribute to society in a positive and meaningful way. The commitment of the school aligns with the desires of our students who, since last year, have independently spearheaded a number of initiatives in support of building understanding within our community.
Student-Led Equity Initiatives: DEI Club and Passionate Advocates for Gender Equity (PAGE)
Our students’ drive to lead a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative in 2020/21 began the year before in the wake of the reinvigoration the Black Lives Matter movement. One of its student facilitators, Lily Bowman ’21, said she “felt an even stronger need for conversation and education surrounding important, and sometimes uncomfortable, topics in our community.” Last year, Lily ’21, in collaboration with her peers Catherine Kim ’21, Dylan Clement ’21, Nicole Liu ’21 and others, launched the student-led DEI club and worked to lead a series of student-led discussions, open to everyone, on issues and topics affecting the community. In collaboration with LCS staff, they were able to host the school’s first virtual summer student-led Community Gathering on DEI before the school year began, to start the conversation. Invited special guest speakers—Maurice Switzer ’63, Kelly Nottage ’00, and LCS Staff member Isaac Eshikaty joined the student-led panel to share personal stories and explore topics such as microaggressions, holding peers accountable, and developmental experiences surrounding race and identity. As an incredibly diverse, international school, this conversation at the start of the 2020/21 year, was the first of many, and provided a powerful student-led example of the change we can make in our community.
The work of the DEI club continues this fall under the leadership of Sarah Jiang ’22, Rori Ash ’22 and Clea Yates ’22. The group has already been engaging in important discussions and we look forward to sharing more about their continued leadership in this area.
Another LCS student-led group, Passionate Advocates for Gender Equity (PAGE), recruited artists throughout the Grove community to participate in an art exhibition they organized, OurStory, on May 8, 2021. Yeseo Kim ’22, Minjung (Min) Son ’22, Louise Prindiville-Porto ’22, and Jana Rubel ’22 began the project five months earlier (in January) to ignite conversations in the community about gender equity by representing gender discrimination through artwork. OurStory featured all forms of art, including painting, drawing, dancing, singing, drama, spoken word, poetry, and more.
Min ’22 described the PAGE group’s mission as “to bridge gender gaps and advocate for those facing gender-based discrimination through education in our community and beyond.” Through the art exhibit, PAGE organizers hoped to “provide an area for everyone to share their personal experiences of gender discrimination without excluding any gender identities,” she explained. Student organizers felt strongly about the legacy they hoped to create, which Louise ’22 described as “a space for people in the school community to share their passion for gender equity and take action towards it….I think as a school, it’s our responsibility to educate youth on gender assumptions so that when they become adults and have greater influence, they can educate others around them.”
The truest measure of Lakefield College School’s ongoing journey with diversity, equity, and inclusion work is represented within the lived experience of each of our community members—current and prospective students, alumni, parents, faculty, staff, donors, and friends of LCS. We continue to strive for improvement and to identify how we can better foster feelings of safety and inclusivity within our community and beyond. This includes examining our biases and creating a culture that engages unfamiliar ideas, perspectives, and people to create the conditions for dramatic and meaningful growth, and change, when necessary. It includes looking carefully at the experiences we’ve helped to create in the past, in order to determine the best path forward for our current students and for the generations of students yet to come.