Poly Prep Students Improve Community
Recently, Poly Prep Country Day School's ABC Mentors traveled to The Gilman School in Baltimore for two days of presentations, workshops, and conferences focusing on diversity. The mentors were invited by Headmaster Jon McGill, who was previously Associate Head of Poly Prep. In 1996, while at Poly Prep, McGill gave Ms. Shari Fogler permission to create the Achieving A Better Community (ABC) Mentors' Program. This year's leadership group,of four juniors and 19 seniors,was trained to recognize and interrupt bias within themselves and the Poly community. An intense summer retreat and weekly sessions prepared the mentors to facilitate anti-bias discussions on subjects such as race, gender, and sexual orientation with seventh, eighth, and ninth graders without adults present. In addition, the mentors encourage their "mentees" to make responsible decisions about risky behaviors.
McGill extended his invitation to Fogler and her mentors because, as McGill asserts, "Gilman's mission is to express in tangible ways our commitment to diversity and to building community. Our outreach efforts with Poly Prep bring us into close relationship with a fine school that is also historically committed to the same mission that has driven Gilman."
When Fogler, Academic Dean John Rankin, and the mentors arrived, Poly's students gave a chapel presentation for Gilman's Upper School. The Poly students were overwhelmed by the warmth and attentiveness of the assembly.
Following the chapel, Gilman's Diversity Coordinator Johnnie Foreman hosted a luncheon in Poly's honor where the mentors socialized with 30 Gilman boys. Fogler then facilitated a three-hour diversity workshop for both groups, which consisted of guided discussion and interactive experiential activities.
"Both Mr. Rankin and I could not get over how well the Gilman and Poly students bonded. It is so impressive to hear young people of different backgrounds and life experiences be able to so clearly articulate feelings on such sensitive issues," explained Fogler.
On Friday, both groups attended an Association of Independent Maryland Schools (AIMS) Diversity Student Leadership Conference with 150 students from the Baltimore area. Poly students were placed in affinity groups where they shared their individual experiences of being in a multi-cultural school community. Even though the mentors' program is not about consensus but about respecting difference, the mentors seemed to all be in agreement after being in conversation with students from so many different schools. The mentors concurred that Poly really does so much to create an inclusive community where everyone feels valued and respected. Poly mentors left with a renewed commitment to continue the program's mission, and the hope that they will remain in contact with their friends at Gilman as the Gilman students work to design their own diversity leadership group mirrored on Poly's ABC Mentors' Program.
"Interacting with other school communities reinforces the reality that you don't just read about diversity, you have to live it," Fogler commented. McGill echoed Poly's exhilaration when he shared, "We enjoyed being the hosts for Poly's ABC Mentors, not least because I was personally present when Shari Fogler created the program that she has so ably led for many years. It was wonderful to see the Poly folks here in Baltimore." Fogler elaborated, "Our combined hope is to host another exchange, on Poly's campus next year, where we can continue to learn from and connect with each other's school communities. It is obvious that both groups of students are wonderful ambassadors for diversity."#