BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ- The Diversity Committee has been created to raise awareness of and embrace the diversity in Berkeley Heights Public Schools.
The Committee consists of different action teams whose goals are to inform students about different cultures, identities, and diverse backgrounds. Each member belongs to a specific team and each team will focus on bringing events to the school to educate the students about diversity.
To get a variety of opinions, members include students, teachers, parents, and administrators.
The committee has met over Zoom to discuss ideas to strengthen the diversity in the school community. One event proposed, which will take place, is providing the students of Governor Livingston an education about Diwali, the Indian festival of light.
The committee hopes to plan and organize events for each action team, to teach students and staff about different cultures. A second goal of the committee is to assess and modify the curriculums within each department. The committee will be discussing concerns related to inequities in content areas to make sure there are broader discussions on race, ethnicity, religion, and gender
Sara Fajardo, a senior and a member of the Diversity Committee and a co-founder of GL Unfiltered, an activism club, was persuaded to join the committee because, like most of the other members, she wants the committee to help bring awareness to the diversity of the student body.
“I think the committee will help create a more empathetic community, which will make all GL community members more aware of how we can continue to be better to one another,” Fajardo said.
Senior Alyssa Pradhan, the founder of the Understanding Asian Cultures Club, realized that the community had a lack of understanding, in terms of the diversity of the students.
Pradhan said, “I'm sure that the committee will bring about real change and make the school community more open and welcoming. With the establishment of the committee and thoughtful and capable members leading it, I hope that all identities, communities, and more will be celebrated and accepted.”
Stephen Hopkins, Social Studies and World Language supervisor and Diversity Committee adviser, said “COVID-19, remote learning, and then hybrid learning have really disrupted the normal flow of the school year. In many ways it would have been easier to wait until things returned to normal to start the Diversity Committee, but the mission is just too important to put off a year.”
Hopkins also said that a factor for the start of the committee was superintendent Dr. Melissa Varley’s new mission statement: “Include, Inspire, Empower.”
“It is important that all of our students feel safe and accepted in the school community. To have a student feel included is the first step in helping them learn,” he said.
At a time when there is much division, the addition of this committee is one step toward bridging the gap between different cultures and ethnicities.