Project Name: Diversity in Action

School Name: North Haven High School

Location: North Haven, CT

Description: The Diversity Team at North Haven High School has worked for years to promote acceptance and tolerance in their school. When the results of their school climate assessment indicated that students in the school wanted more of a voice, they adopted inspirED and held a conference on diversity and emotional intelligence, using many of the activities featured on the inspirED site, for 19 other high schools.

The Context: Six years ago, North Haven High School was a very different place. Although there was diversity in the student body, different groups of students did not get along. To address these issues, the North Haven Diversity Team formed with a mission of combatting inequality and promoting awareness of the diversity in their hallways.

In the 2014-15 school year, NHHS participated in the Yale School Climate Assessment. The results of the survey had a great impact on the vision of the Diversity Team. These results showed that, compared to the national average, NHHS scored significantly higher in “acceptance for diversity.” This was a major victory for the Diversity Team! It showed that their efforts had been successful in transforming the climate of the school. They had all felt a shift in their school climate, and with the data to prove it, they knew they were on the right track.

However, the results also showed something else. The team found that their school not only scored low in “student voice,” (meaning that students did not always feel listened to), but that the top three emotions felt by students every day were all negative. After considering the results of the report, the team concluded that students of different groups felt accepted for their cultural or physical differences, but did not always feel positive about being at school, and did not feel that they had much of a voice there.

The Project: With the data from the Yale School Climate Assessment, the decision was made to add inspirED to the Diversity Team efforts at NHHS, with the goal of empowering student voice and promoting more positive emotions among all groups of students on campus. The addition of inspirED was smooth, as the team already had officers, an advisor, and goals for the year. Team members regularly participated in conversations with other schools or academic organizations. They had even developed videos and workshops on a variety of topics, including mental health, LGBTQ identity, physical ability, and more. The emotional intelligence-based framework of inspirED was the perfect complement to the NHHS Team’s work to promote awareness and acceptance.

“This was a perfect progression for our work. Not only were we continuing to work on how we can be an ally to others, but the natural next step was to look at how we can teach students to be an ally to themselves through promoting emotional health. We found that it is easier to accept others if we first accept ourselves.”

  • Robin River, inspirED faculty advisor

Each year, the Diversity Team at NHHS develops and hosts a conference at their high school for other schools nearby. During this conference, students and educators work together to consider various aspects of diversity and how to promote acceptance at their own schools. For their inspirED Project, the team decided to infuse their existing conference activities on diversity and acceptance with activities featured on the inspirED site.

To prepare for the conference, the NHHS team tested inspirED activities and made some changes to adapt them to suit the topic of diversity. They also considered how emotional intelligence could support people from different cultures and experiences. Equipped with workshops, activities, and snacks, they invited students and educators from 19 other high schools in Connecticut for a day-long Diversity in Action conference in their school library.

The Diversity in Action conference was held in October of 2016. Students and teachers were welcomed into the building through a “high-five” tunnel designed to make them feel excited and valued. They entered the library, decorated with student artwork. Each participant was given a paper flower which corresponded with colors on the walls. Students and educators from different schools were grouped together, and spent the day rotating through 60 minute workshops designed and presented by the inspirED Diversity Team. By the end of the day, participants had shared stories, exchanged ideas, and built relationships that would continue long beyond that day.

The Impact: Integrating inspirED into NHHS has been transformative for the Diversity Team and for the school community as a whole. At the Diversity in Action conference this year, they increased their participation from 12 to 19 schools. In their follow-up surveys, student participants from all over Connecticut stated that their experience helped them to understand “the power of appreciation and kindness,” and that “these are easy qualities to pass on.” One school borrowed a reflection from the Diversity in Action conference and currently uses it to prompt their school community to reflect on the simple things that students and educators can do to make a difference in their school. Additionally, the “I Wonder Ball” activity the NHHS team developed for the conference is available on the inspirED website.

The Future:

The inspirED Diversity Team at NHHS is just beginning to explore the possibilities that lay ahead of them. In the future, they plan to continue to address the results from their school climate survey. Having worked to promote relationships between different groups in school, the team is now considering how to address the negative emotions that individually impact students’ well-being and success. Their ideas include student-to-student support, and targeted kindness initiatives at certain times throughout the year. They are also excited to continue to develop more activities and workshops, and in March they plan to present their emotional intelligence and diversity workshop at the largest LGBTQ youth conference in the nation.

Best Practices: What advice would you give to other schools interested in inspirED?

“The inspirED website was very helpful to us and can be to other schools who want to do a similar conference. It is not difficult–it can start small with just a few workshops and grow as large as the team envisions for themselves. Choose one activity and do it with a group, and see if those participants feel comfortable doing it with other groups. The rewards are so powerful, and you see the impact when students say how good they feel after participating and that they can’t wait to pass it on.”

  • Robin River, inspirED Faculty Advisor