Brentwood School hosted its fourth biennial Diversity Day, not annual. Sorry! Diversity Day on Wednesday, Feb. 13 with this year’s theme called "The Power of Personal Stories," where students heard from a wide range of people, such as a three-time Olympic gold medalist, a gay rabbi, a former gang member, a stay-at-home father and many more.
Head of School Dr. Michael Riera said he's most proud of three things done at Brentwood School: It's academic/intellectual rigor, emotional intelligence and development of character.
"It is the essential integration of these three that comprises the ‘special sauce’ that is Brentwood School," he said. "Today, Diversity Day requires all three."
In 2005, Dave Velasquez, Assistant Head of School for Alumni Relations, attended the National Association of Independent Schools-sponsored People of Color Conference in Dallas, TX. After attending a workshop called "Hosting Your School’s Own Diversity Day,” Velasquez said he returned inspired to bring such a program to Brentwood School.
In keeping with the theme of the power of personal stories, Reveta Bowers, head of school at The Center for Early Education, shared in her keynote address that, “finding time to tell stories allows us to appreciate ones another’s histories, paths, and values. It is important to know the stories that shaped people’s lives in order to better understand and appreciate their perspectives. Remember the healing potential of stories and make the time to value and to hear them.”
Among those who spoke during diversity day was a junior who talked openly about coming from a poor socio-economic background and the challenges they faced as a Brentwood student, an alum who balances the roles of wife, mother and surgeon and an athlete in the Special Olympics, who reminded students and faculty that he is "other-abled" and not disabled.
Students also heard a morning talk from combat veteran and Rhodes Scholar Wes Moore, who describes his book The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates. His story talks about the time he was receiving his Rhodes Scholarship, a man from his Baltimore neighborhood was convicted of murdering a police officer. Moore further talked about how people and experiences help to
shape one’s decisions, and ultimately, one's destiny.
"Diversity Day is one of the few days when the entire Brentwood community can come together to celebrate the diversity at the school," said one junior. "Hearing numerous personal stories throughout the entire day motivated and inspired me. This day meant so much to me, not only because I was involved in planning it, but also because it celebrated each individual person as a human being with a different background, color, socio-economic status, class, etc."