How Newark Academy fosters a sense of belonging once members of the community are in the building is one of the key points in the 2019–2023 Strategic Plan, and a priority for the school. Toward that end, NA continues to implement new diversity and inclusion initiatives that motivate the school’s growing – and diverse – community to have thoughtful discussions and connect with one another.
Last year, Director of Equity and Inclusion Gardy Guiteau, Newark Academy Parents Association (NAPA) President Mae Hacking and Chair of the NAPA Engagement Committee Nino Badridze attended Far Brook School’s third annual diversity conference for New Jersey independent schools, titled “From Attending to Belonging: Reimagining Independent Schools for our Intersectional Communities.” To say that the three left the conference motivated and inspired is an understatement.
The focus of the conference “naturally resonated with one of NAPA’s most prominent goals of fostering the sense of belonging to the Newark Academy community,” Nino says. “The discussions reaffirmed our commitment to continue working on supporting our diverse community in meaningful ways.” And thus, two new affinity groups were born at NA: LGBTQ+ Families and Allies, and First-Generation Immigrant Families and Friends.
and Inclusion, the NAPA Engagement Committee explored new ways to help parents connect with each other by creating events that accommodate various interests and schedules. In October, NAPA organized two dinners for NA families. The LGBTQ+ Families and Allies Dinner provided an opportunity for families to learn about ongoing initiatives aimed at supporting and celebrating NA’s LGBTQ+ students and families and those who act as allies. Additionally, the First-Generation Immigrant Families and Friends Dinner brought together NA’s families who moved to the United States relatively recently.
NAPA “strives to be a resource for all of our constituents, to help them successfully navigate their Newark Academy journey,” says Nino. “By supporting parents and fostering a sense of belonging, NAPA helps strengthen the dynamic Newark Academy community, whose ultimate goal is to provide our children with the best possible educational experiences as well as inspiring them on their journeys to becoming their best selves.”
A few years ago, student members of the Gay-Straight Alliance began discussing the possibility of changing the group’s name to Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) – a change that was finalized last year. “The goal was to give the group a name that was more inclusive and better represented its membership: not only students who identify as gay or who are allies, but also those who identify across the LGBTQ+ spectrum,” GSA Advisor David Beckman says.
While the group can hold the same acronym of GSA, the name change is in line with a trend among schools nationally to move away from the formerly common “gay-straight alliance” model. “We have the opportunity to speak to a larger community,” says Gardy Guiteau, director of equity and inclusion
Recognizing the need for students to connect with, and support, one another – and the benefits that result from those connections – NA’s Office of Equity and Inclusion is launching several identity-based affinity groups in the Upper School this year, including NA Students of Color and Young Men of NA. These groups will provide opportunities for the school to support students with positive social identity development and will raise awareness of how social group memberships impact students’ perceptions of and interactions with one another. For more information, please visit www.newarka.edu/equityprograms.