Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Updates
- Mrs. Viki Aquistapace - Faculty Member, Science Department
- De La Salle Blog Update
- Ms. Meredith Barnidge, Director of Theatre Arts
- Mr. Jon Norfolk, Learning Center Coordinator
- Mr. Michael Aquino, Director of Campus Life and Culture
- Dr. Elizabeth Berkes, Director of Faculty Development
- Mark DeMarco '78, President
Mrs. Viki Acquistapace, Faculty - Science Department
At De La Salle High School my teaching assignment is Biology. One of the tenets of Biology is that a diverse population is always stronger than a monoculture. This is revealed to students as they study bacteria, plant, and animal populations during lab hours. It’s a small step to understand that this is us too.
In any class, there are mechanics, readers, humorists, illustrators, organizers, debaters, helpers, technical writers, techies, engineers, animators, poets, mediators, accountants, etc. My job is to see students’ strengths, validate them and direct them into a cohesive pursuit of science. My goal is for students to connect with Biology, to look back on high school biology as a time and place where they belonged to something productive or at least memorable. How this is done is straightforward. Biology is multidisciplinary so I strive to have students approach concepts together from different angles so that maybe one or more strands will lead them into learning and sharing. For instance, in a two-or-three week timeframe students side-by-side, often working in teams, will read about cells, sketch them, sculpt a cell model, prepare slides of living cells, and use digital technology to photograph and measure cell dimensions. Then, in the lab, students force a mutation upon bacterial cells, genetically engineer a novel bacteria strain, then discuss the ethics of this, and read about new manipulative technologies such as CRSPR. We pose the question: if you were sitting on a bench with God what would God say about what you have done in the lab to create a life form? How would you answer? Within these units of instruction and learning, I always keep class fluid to student ideas that typically start with: “Mrs. Acquistapace, what if we…” In this example alone, there are at least a dozen different chances for a student to contribute and maybe even shine.
And when contributions soar, I believe in celebrating that improvement, innovation, and excellence. A student may never make it to the DLS Academics Awards Night, but he might earn a gold star, a warthog trophy, or a Hall of Fame accolade displayed in Room 512 for exceptional high school level work in Biology.
I heard best-selling author Ed Yong speak last November and he reminded me that though many think of science as bland and boring, the stories behind scientists and their discoveries are full of emotion and drama. True to this spirit, often in my students’ lab reports, they will connect their experience in the lab to something personal. It is important for me to acknowledge their own organic connections. It might be from a Varsity athlete or an avid hunter or from a student who is his grandmother’s caretaker.
Sending the student the message: You Matter. You are a Part of This! Is not enough. Inclusivity is not enough. The Golden Rule is the aspiration – to treat others the way that you want to be treated. To maintain a culture of Respect. Another tenet of Biology is that though we are diverse the code that determines how we are built has minuscule differences. We have a common ancestor. In Biology, “race” is not a legitimate term. The “brotherhood” has biological meaning.
I teach Sophomore boys only and they will say jokes or throw verbal barbs at others that amplify differences. I guess it is a blessing that I am a sensitive person – someone who was made fun of in large doses in high school. I know about being a target. I know the price of marching to my own drummer. I always hope that times have changed, but I try to be ready to resolutely STOP such words and loose statements made by students not thinking before speaking. I pull students aside to make clear my point of view – zero tolerance. I will even draw SCORE members and counselors in to talk to the student as a united front. I don’t catch all insults. I don’t bat 1000. But I hope that students know that I’m serious. I tell all of my students that if we are going to fly the flag of “Integrity” in our Inner Court (as we do), then let’s not be hypocrites. Let’s live up to it.
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging work are extensions of the work that has already started with the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) training on the De La Salle campus. As a result of previous trainings and continuing education on these topics, the theme for the 2019-20 school year at De La Salle High School will focus on the Lasallian Core Principle: “Inclusive Community.”
The Lasallian school is a united community where diversity is respected, where no one is left out, and where everyone finds a place. Individuals within the school community recognize and accept another's strengths and limitations. This core principle is expressed through the Lasallian ideal: "The Lasallian Family."
As we continue through this school year, the institution will continue to promote an inclusive community with its faculty, staff, and students. This continues to be an important principle to promote, as it touches on all Five Core Lasallian Principles: Faith in the Presence of God, Concern for the Poor and Social Justice, Respect for All Persons, Quality Education, and Inclusive Community.
by Meredith Barnidge, Director of Theatre Arts
Theatre matters. One person on stage is telling a story, giving a speech, or possessing truth through authority. Two people exchanging dialogue on stage is just two people with opinions and we, the audience, get to exercise our empathy while imagining both points of view. We lean forward and truly conceptualize one character’s life and then we mentally switch to the other’s perspective. It is a workout to try to understand the actions and motives of a character, especially one with whom we share nothing in common. The higher the stakes are for the characters, the more we must dive into our mind’s eye to seek and make sense of the POV presented to us. This goes back and forth until finally, we get to discover a personal truth out of that fictional conflict.
When I was selecting the De La Salle and Carondelet theatrical season, I had this idea in mind. What if we allowed our students the opportunity to witness conflict that deals with the tough realities in their daily lives? What does it mean to be a man? How do girls find confidence in themselves? Can I stand up to my friends? When is strength born in vulnerability? Can we take ownership of the opposing sides and express it so that our student community could derive their own truths from these opposing views? We open our season with Dogfight and close with Pygmalion. Dogfight questions the ethical ground young adults trample and Pygmalion responds to it.
Our first production, Dogfight, is about a bunch of Marines who have a “dogfight” party, in which the contest is to see who can bring the ugliest girl. It sounds horrible. So, why did we choose it?
Because the stakes are incredibly high for both of our main characters, Eddie and Rose. Who are they as human beings on this planet? How should they see each other -- and expect to be seen?
This is a conversation we are having all over the De La Salle campus. How do we create servant leaders who see the world and choose to treat others with compassion? Can we make empathy into an exercise? By choosing this production we are exposing a very ugly truth about the world we share. Both of the main characters struggle under the immense weight of societal expectations. In Dogfight, the character roles are toxic and each character is trapped by that rigidity.
The DLS/CHS theatre Company is joining our campus efforts alongside Student Coalition on Respectful Education (SCORE), Mentors in Violence Prevention, and Respect for All Persons. Company is looking for ways to increase empathy, creative leadership, and antidotes that speak to the anxieties and disconnect felt by so many young people we spend time with each day. The theatre Company wants the students to have a voice and explore through art.
As director, it is my hope that understanding can be gained when these kids get an early (high school) chance to confront scary questions and discover amazing new possibilities. The stakes are high, not just for characters in a show our play. They are high for the students we love. By the end of this production, we will see two people whose harsh experiences helped them gain the wisdom to shed the “man-woman thing”. They transcend beyond societal expectations and become human beings who understand the possibilities and freedoms that walk alongside compassion.
by Jon Norfolk, Student Learning Center Coordinator
An athlete consistently grinds at his craft – passionate, relentless, mentally tough, and unselfish. These intangibles prepare the athlete to shine on game day. Ball snaps, pass inbounds, ball approaches the plate, and BAMM! – confidence and execution. Success! Team wins. A+.
Why is it for most students that their passion for sports, or any passion for that matter, doesn't exist the same way in the classroom? Simply put, when passionate about any activity the process is easy and fun. Not so much physically easy or mentally easy, but love easy. Students love going to practice, love playing their favorite video games, love performing on the big stage – and when the crowd cheers, their hearts are filled with excitement and joy, which keeps them coming back time and time again.
But what do you do when it’s not easy, when the passion isn’t there and may never be? The answer is simple; you grind the same way you would outside the classroom at your favorite activity. You find a way to get it done with the same expectations. Just like relying on the respect teammates offer one another on the field, court, pool, or track, that same level of respect needs to be nurtured in the classroom. In the Learning Center, we strive to make this possible for De La Salle students.
The Learning Center staff, and our team of tutors and coordinators, hold strong to this grinder’s mentality, and respect each student as they walk through the doors and utilize the resources we have to offer. To show up in the Learning Center and master a topic you’re not 100 percent interested in, takes courage, but sharpens the mind in a way that can translate to success in life. The effort on your homework powers your focus to stay in the present moment. The grinder’s mentality, and most importantly, the willingness to always give more of yourself, is there. You must always realize that effort in the classroom is paramount because your passions outside the classroom typically come easy.
Building relationships through the Learning Center is crucial to each student’s overall success. We average over 15 tutors and 100 students a day, working together to achieve common goals. Building trust, community, and establishing strong connections with students are vitally important their achievements in the classroom. Content knowledge is important, but connecting with one another and life-coaching one another is a whole different level of passion – ultimately giving our students the confidence to succeed. Working with a tutor and getting the work done feels great, but LEARNING and connecting with the tutor takes your self-esteem to a whole new positive level.
The Learning Center provides a place to change young minds into believing and understanding that classroom performance can lead to success later in life. As educators, our best memories will be when the students work extremely hard to; get a good grade in a tough geometry class, ace the big paper, win first place on the big science fair project, or more importantly, walk across the stage at graduation.
When life gets tough, you can’t always get through challenges alone. When De La Salle students are challenged in the classroom, the Learning Center is available to help the student navigate through these difficult times. All of us working together teaches life skills, punctuality, hard work, and accountability, or what we refer to as the grinder’s mentality.
by Mr. Michael Aquino, Director of Campus Life and Culture
At the end of September, much of the nation was talking about the controversy surrounding Supreme Court pick Judge Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual assault while in high school. And while there were many views shared by experts, politicians and reporters, unfortunately, much of the discussion shifted to victim-blaming/shaming of the woman sharing her story. It’s my belief as a teacher that If adults were talking about it, so were our students. This seems to be the prevailing cultural norm and highlights a central educational imperative, especially rooted to our own core principles of concern for social justice and respect for all persons.
For many teachers, like myself, this national moment created a teachable one in my classes. We at De La Salle continue to educate our young men to stop victim-blaming and ask them to grapple with the behavior of crime victims, particularly survivors of sexual assault. This is critical for students to understand that trauma often takes years for survivors to acknowledge, much less deal with themselves. According to David Lisak's 2010 study: False Allegations of Sexual Assualt, false reporting of sexual assault (approx. 2-10%) follows false reporting of other crimes; and that the vast majority of sexual assaults go unreported because the victim knows the perpetrator, therefore, there is often little or no consequence for the perpetrator. As you can imagine, this conversation may be new for many students, and parents. This NPR Story has some great tips that may be of value.
This is why so much of our conversation on campus begins by building empathy and considering, as men, what it must be like to navigate the world through the experiences of the women in our lives. Through this awareness-raising, acknowledging that we, as young men, worry less about being sexually harassed or assaulted. Yet, young females at high schools across America could easily rattle off lists of things they consider and do on a daily basis to protect themselves.
As a culture, we are still stuck in the risk-management/prevention strategies that puts the burden on women and girls to protect themselves, rather than giving our young men the leadership skills and tools to begin noticing the harmful words and behaviors of their peers and their teammates, and the confidence to interrupt it. This is the core of what De La Salle’s partnership with Mentors in Violence Prevention and our multi-year efforts and conversation are about- from our yearly focus:
- In the 9th grade level, exploring healthy masculinity with Ashanti Branch and Ever Forward Club’s “Taking Off the Mask” workshop.
- In co-ed assemblies at the 9th/10th grade level with Kim Karr’s #icanhelp call to positively engage with social media use and interrupt harmful and negative online behaviors.
- Our selection of “Dogfight” as our fall play. “Dogfight “is a musical adapted from the 1991 film of the same name that takes a look at a group of Marine’s preparing to head off to Vietnam as early advisors, and their beliefs about gender norms as well as looking at the dehumanization that is a part of war.
- Convening of the newly formed Consortium of Boys’ Schools. The Consortium was formed by De La Salle in June 2018 to bring together Catholic and independent boys’ schools from across Northern California to tackle issues and challenges particular to educating young men and to share best practices.
De La Salle is committed to taking a leadership role in shifting the existing culture to one centered in empathy, respect, and action. It’s going to take the leadership and courage, particularly of the adult men in the lives of our De La Salle students – teachers, coaches, mentors, fathers – to open this conversation about what a world free from gender-based harassment and violence sounds and looks like.
by Dr. Elizabeth Berkes, Director of Faculty Development
It’s a new school year and our students are excited to be here! Every year they come back to us with new ideas about how to take what they are learning and make it more meaningful for them and the world. This year is no exception.
The students in the Service Leadership class and the Jefferson Awards Students in Action Club have come to school with enthusiasm and a passion to serve, and are looking for other students who have a passion for a particular issue or an idea for new ways to serve our community and our world. In the first meeting of the 2018-19 school year, the students of the De La Salle Jefferson Awards Students in Action Club suggested a new way to explain what we do: The De La Salle Service Incubator. An incubator has a commitment to work with new ideas and help launch projects. William Cumbelich ’19, developed a new graphic announcing this, he was so excited!
De La Salle has partnered with the Jefferson Awards Foundation Students In Action Program for more than 12 years. The Students In Action Program was created to develop high school students into community leaders through leadership, engagement, and impact.
This year we are proud that we already have new collaborations with our sisters at Carondelet High School and continued collaborations with our student-athletes and athletics programs on the calendar. JT Baird ’21 (JV football) and Connor Knierim ’19 (varsity swimming) will collaborate with Isis Tolson ‘19 at Carondelet to expand our annual Cereal Drive for Contra Costa Food Bank. On October 3, De La Salle and Carondelet will hold our second joint Blood Drive at Carondelet, headed by Carondelet’s Sophomore Class Council and De La Salle’s Vincent Castillo ‘21 (JV swimming). Later this month our schools will collaborate to host a second-round “Service Draft” to allow more students to choose new projects to be adopted by our student service consultants in the Jefferson Awards Students in Action club. Looking ahead to next semester, on February 2, 2019, De La Salle and Carondelet students, led by Jack Napper ‘19 (varsity lacrosse), will host the Eighth Annual Laps for Life Suicide Prevention community event in collaboration with the entire lacrosse and soccer programs. We are incredibly proud that our service leaders come from all areas of the school.
Taken together, these opportunities to lead in service of our community truly embody all five Lasallian Core Principles. These students feel the love of God for them, know God’s Holy Presence, and are looking to share that with others.
We are so proud to watch these students grow and learn to serve and we are honored to walk beside them.
by Former President, Mark Demarco '78
With the first days of school upon us, we are reminded of all the wonders and possibilities our students will experience this year. In the 2018-2019 academic year, we will focus on the Lasallian Core Principle “inclusive community” as our means to continue our work with the Respect Initiative.
Today we introduce a new page on our website, one dedicated to our programming around Respect and Inclusivity. Here you will find updates on programming at De La Salle, established to broaden our student’s view of their responsibility to themselves, others, and the community during and after school.
Every month, you will see a perspective on the topic from our faculty and staff. You will also have an opportunity to hear from our students on the subject and how they are making a difference on and off-campus.
For example, this month you will read some brief thoughts from our Vice President of Athletics, Leo Lopoz. Later this month, you will hear from Tim Kostlansky, a student who participates in our basketball program. We will also be able to update you on programming around leadership tools, in particular regarding their obligations as active bystanders. Students, faculty, and staff from De La Salle and Carondelet High School participated in conversations and training with Mentors in Violence Prevention Strategies (https://www.mvpstrat.com/) and profile our first Leadership Institute for students, led by Dr. Jackson Katz (founder of MVP Strategies). We anticipate expanding the Leadership Institute in 2019 to include an even broader group of students.
Our theme of Respect and Inclusivity will serve as the foundation of our approach to help educate our young men about the importance of respect for one another, bystander training, and much more. We invite you to visit this page at least once a month for updates from our passionate group of administrators and teachers who are dedicated to inspiring our students each day.
If you have questions about programming around the subject, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Dr. Heather Alumbaugh at email@example.com.