Upper School Diversity Engagement
Promoting the Individual’s Voice through the Harkness Table Classroom
GA has a long tradition of integrating multiple voices and perspectives into the classroom. With discussion as the cornerstone of the English and history programs, students gather around a Harkness Table to debate works of literature, to question standard interpretations of historical events, and to voice their unique points-of-view.
Expanding Cultural and Language Awareness through International Programs
Five years ago GA expanded its offerings in Modern Languages with the establishment of the inaugural Confucius Classroom in Pennsylvania and the teaching of Chinese. Through a partnership with a school in China, a teacher from the Capital Normal University High School travels to assist with the teaching of Chinese in the Middle and Upper Schools.
GA Upper School students and faculty also have the incredible opportunity to travel to England, China, Poland and Spain for cultural and educational exchanges through partnerships with specific high schools in those countries. Our six-week homestay in Spain, for example, provides an opportunity to live and experience the culture firsthand. Since GA embraces the philosophy that experiential learning provides the best means of educating students about the culture, language, and lives of others, the Upper School also encourages students to spend a semester abroad.
Promoting Higher Education Opportunities for Students of Color
GA’s College Counseling team promotes “fly-in” programs sponsored by individual colleges and universities for students of color and the “Friends Students of Color College Fair” at Westtown School. With a college search process focused on match, GA students attend colleges and universities throughout the United States and abroad, including single sex and historically black universities. For a complete list of colleges and universities attended by GA students, please visit the College Counseling section of the GA website.
Upper School Affinity Groups
Diversity efforts in GA’s Upper School have been guided by director of diversity, Carol Ayers, who has organized Upper School students to attend NAIS’s Students of Color Conference each year and who serves as advisor to the Black Student Alliance and All Cultures Together. GA’s Upper School celebrates differences and supports diversity within its student body by offering the opportunity to participate in the following affinity groups:
The Black Student Alliance (BSA) discusses current events, personal experiences, and lifestyle surrounding the African American community. Through this forum, the black students at GA create a space where they can meet their fellow students and develop a community in which they can express themselves wholly and openly. Through conferences, movie screenings, and guest speakers, BSA works not only to spread awareness and tolerance, but also to create a community in which all individuals can thrive.
Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) raises awareness for a range of issues pertaining to gender identity, educates GA’s student population about sexuality, and fosters as safe space for students of all orientations. Each year, SAGA members organize a portion of our Freshmen Seminar curriculum in order to provide an opportunity for our 9th grade students to speak candidly about gender identity and sexuality; SAGA also coordinates the Day of Silence in order to raise awareness about the violence that has been directed at the LGBT community.
At Women’s Forum students discuss current events and issues that affect women in the GA community and all over the world. Women’s Forum addresses topics like misogyny in music, sexual assault in the military, and the depiction of female superheroes. Club members also participate in special activities like examining feminism in television during a week-long event, taking a trip to see a performance of the Vagina Monologues, and meeting with the school nurse and doctor. The club has also started a pen-pal relationship with the Lower School G.I.R.L.S. club, as well as facilitated the formation of a Middle School Women’s Forum.
Members of ACT Club (All Cultures Together) smile when describing it as the club “for any and everyone”. ACT Club aims to embody the ideal of non-discrimination throughout the entire world, whether it be one’s race, morals, beliefs, class, etc. The sole purpose of ACT is to spread this ideal, urging others to act as one community despite any potentially differentiating factors. Therefore, members of ACT work on projects that not only immerse and expose others to different types of culture, but also act as vehicles that the entire GA community can participate in and experience. ACT created the Pegasus Wall, a wall on which all students share the name of an individual he or she admires, participates in field trips to Latkepalooza in Philadelphia, and watch foreign films, and prepare and feast on different types of cuisine. ACT Club strives to foster a single overarching culture of mutual acceptance and love and respect for the entire GA community.
Indian Culture Club
Indian Culture Club exposes and educates non-Indian students about the Indian culture. To meet this purpose, the Indian Culture Club holds parties—such as the yearly Diwali party—and teaches Hindi and other facets of Indian culture to allow students to enjoy Indian cuisine, learn about Indian holidays and mythologies, and explore traditional Indian culture in a fun and interesting way
- Freshman Seminar addresses the developmental needs of ninth graders through an exploration of such topics as decision-making, prejudice and stereotyping, sexuality and emotional intelligence.
- Sophomores delve into an analysis of the Chinese Revolutions in the twentieth century and the Revolutions currently taking place in the Middle East in “World History II.”
- In English elective “Drag Identities,” students explore gender as a socially constructed category while in “Writing Ourselves into the World,” students ponder the relationship of self to language, to culture, and to history reading such works as Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of a Slave, and Sherman Alexie’s Flight among other texts.
- History electives such as “Comparative Religions,” “Women’s History” and “The Mongols,” stretch students beyond their own experiences.
- “Neuropsychology” explores the brain-behavior relationship as it relates to personality, gender, learning style, emotions, and psychological disorders.
- The New Community Project is a project-based team-taught course that employs the concepts of design thinking (empathic problem solving), and the disciplines of History, English, and Arts to explore questions related to community in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs.