Lawrenceville held more than 30 workshops – led by students, faculty, and outside experts – at Community Day. All students attended the keynote address by Erik Motley and attended the workshop of their choice, which covered issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Community Day theme was “Seeing Yourself in the Dialogue: Reflections on Representation.”
Motley began the day with an inspiring autobiographical talk. He began life as an underserved boy in Madison Park, Alabama and, with hard work and unwavering community support, rose to Special Assistant to President George W. Bush. He now serves as an executive vice president of the Aspen Institute where he leads Institutional Advancement and governance. Motley, who said his family was “poor financially, but rich in relationships and togetherness,” described myriad ways his entire town of 532 people united to support and encourage him to continue his education. “I was like an astronaut [living] the dreams, hopes, and aspirations of every one of them.”
School President Trevor White ’19 said, “[Motley] was an incredible speaker! He expanded all of our worldviews with his story of Madison Park rallying what little they had behind him. It was inspiring to hear the success that came out of it, but also humbling to know how privileged we are to be given an upbringing where education is the norm, and the opportunity of attending Lawrenceville.”
Next up were workshops, which covered issues from Islamophobia to ending rape culture, from
deconstructing Asian American archetypes to representation in children’s literature, and from LGBTQ parenting to soul food.
Third Formers Esha Aktar, Ije Achebe, and Owen Donayre decided wanted to know who was represented in photos hung in Lawrenceville academic buildings, along with the Circle and Crescent Houses. Their workshop, Aktar said, “gave students the opportunity to reflect on how the carefully curated pictures of Lawrenceville represent the student body. Do the students see themselves represented and what psychological effect does this have on them?” This representation, she continued, doesn’t have to be restricted to “core identifiers,” such as race, religion, or gender but can be extended to interests in the arts and athletics. “I hope the attendees began to think more critically about how the pictures of Lawrenceville affirm or negate stereotypes,” she reflected.
Fifth Formers Nadiia Dubchak and Jonny Yue teamed up to present a workshop combining their interests in gender studies and sustainability. “I hope that attendees discovered the very existence of the many connections between the two and will continue to view environmental l issues through the gender lenses as well, in the future,” said Dubchak.
Students also learned at workshops given by outside experts:
Michele DeJulius (CEO/Founder, Women’s Professional Lacrosse League): “Building a Professional Opportunity: Where Vision Meets Preparation”
Jami Floyd (Host, WYNC “All Things Considered”), along with Jax Floyd ’20: “Black, White, and Other: The Practice and Purpose of Defining Identity in the United States”
Katie Germond (Executive Director, Centurion) and Ralph Lee, and Centurion Client): “Wrongful Conviction: Injustice and Bias in the Criminal Justice System”
James Solomon (Director/Producer, “The Witness.”) along with Jasmine Bright ’21: “The Witness”
Annie Hait ’19, who attended a workshop (led by Emilia Onounga ’19 and Ivanna Tavarez ’20), based on the YouTube series “Middle Ground
.” She said her group, while diverse in terms of race, religion, and politics “learned a lot about each other … and found out we have more in common than not. … We share a lot of core beliefs and can find a middle ground at the end of the day.”
Felicia Aikens, Lawrenceville’s Assistant Director of Multicultural Affairs for Campus Life, organized community Day. Aikens, who also serves the School as an Assistant Dean of Admission, said her overall goal for the event was for people, “… [to] learn something new, appreciate the work and expertise of their faculty/student peers, and deepen their understanding about how representation matters. . . . I hope that they learned about how everyone brings something to the table when you are part of a community and that our successes are often defined by the support we get from those around us. Really understanding the message ‘inspire the best in each to seek the best for all.’"
For additional information, please contact Lisa M. Gillard Hanson, director of Public Relations, at email@example.com.