As the hallways fill with students in orange t-shirts, socks, pants, and skirts, I find myself smiling at the spirit of Far Hills in supporting Unity Day. By wearing orange, students are making a statement in support of kindness, acceptance, and inclusion. They are also taking a position against bullying. I am inspired by their willingness to embrace this worthy cause at their young ages.
Far Hills has committed to supporting Unity Day for years. Last year, I dug deeper to try and fully understand the essence of the day and find the relationship with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). It went much deeper than anticipated.
Unity Day was established by the PACER Organization, which originated in 1976, as a group of parents helping parents. Their website explains, “Then as now, PACER was staffed primarily by parents of children with disabilities dedicated to educating other parents and improving the lives of children with disabilities.” It is an admirable organization that approaches challenging topics and life events from a place of positivity, support, and unification. The need for further outreach developed, and PACER took action by founding PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, which “actively leads social change to prevent childhood bullying so that all youth are safe and supported in their schools, communities, and online.” Ultimately, they bring people together to find solutions to challenges coming from a place of positivity.
The attributes of inclusion, acceptance, and kindness weave their way through the PACER Organization’s many programs, especially Unity Day. Herein lies the connection to DEI.
- Diversity creates a rich environment filled with varied experiences that generate an appreciation of experiences beyond our basic knowledge.
- Equity is important to acknowledge that people, regardless of differences, deserve equal opportunities.
- Inclusion is critically important to generating a sense of belonging and acceptance.
The variety of a person’s identities make human beings rich with thoughts, ideas, emotions, and reactions. Through DEI work, we learn to celebrate both similarities and differences and accept people for who they are.
We have been diligently working on DEI training and curriculum implementation for our faculty and administration within our school. It is an exciting time to be invited into an aspect of teaching and learning that connects to emotional well-being alongside current world events. We are constantly expanding our outreach and determining multiple methods and venues for our community to expand its DEI work. We have a team of faculty who work together to keep the conversations going with each other and students. With a focus on inclusion, many new initiatives share different views to see the bigger picture.
DEI topics are ever-present in our children’s lives, and the opportunity to teach authentically is important to encourage creative thinking. Research has proven that the more DEI is a topic of discussion in school, the less students will hesitate to address it. A supportive environment will prepare our children to tackle these conversations as well as informed and sensitive people. It provides the knowledge and experience to reach beyond the walls of Far Hills.
Many aspects of our school community already focus on the attributes of kindness, inclusion, and acceptance, especially when we look at the foundation of our Five Pillars: Kindness, Respect, Responsibility, Honesty, and Leadership. It makes perfect sense that Unity Day is so joyfully celebrated within our community. Throughout the years of celebrating this day, students have made pledges to spread the philosophy of Unity Day. It is evident that they are energized by reaching out and seeking the joy.
After all, kindness feels good. Feeling included and accepted in the community generates a sense of belonging. The chance to pay it forward is rewarding. These qualities are part of the fabric of our Far Hills Community.