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Building a Community of Belonging

Building a Community of Belonging
Tanya Olander

At SSIS, belonging means recognizing each person’s uniqueness and actively working to ensure that everyone feels welcomed and appreciated. Among the many initiatives to create a welcoming and inclusive community is the SSIS Belonging Committee. 

To promote awareness around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, the Belonging Committee has dedicated itself to evolving processes and initiatives that deepen and sustain a culture of belonging at our school.

Embedded in Our Ethos

Our Belonging Committee's focus is on making belonging a living, breathing part of our community. When individuals feel like they belong, they feel safe and are more apt to explore and experiment—and ultimately succeed and flourish without compromising their true selves.

Exchanging stories on the field about the meaning and stories of their names.

Although the Belonging Committee is only a few years old, SSIS’s emphasis on fostering an inclusive environment that celebrates diversity and promotes equity is not. Among our Core Values, Sense of Self, Respect for All, and Balance in Life are natural foundations for belonging. And social-emotional development and wellness elements are integrated into the curriculum.

What’s In a Name?

Recognizing that names are important to our identities, the Belonging Committee dedicated a full week to activities focused on creating awareness about names and their role in belonging, last year. The week culminated with students from the entire school gathering to share the meaning of their names and celebrate their diverse heritages and family stories. 

Students tape their story scales onto the SSIS Dragon.

As part of the name-related initiatives, “NameDrop,” a service that lets users record and attach the correct pronunciation of their names to their emails, was introduced to the community based on the work that several high school teachers were doing with students. In one class, High School English students wrote poems about the origins and meanings of their names, several addressing the difficulties of navigating situations where their names were mispronounced by their teachers. It prompted High School Math Teacher Jack McRobert to create a system for teachers to access students' name pronunciations.

Activities arranged by the Belonging Committee are intended to have a long-reaching impact, so involving students from all divisions is an important factor in celebrating the beauty of our diverse population. 

As part of the work with names, students decorated the SSIS Dragon with scales they had drawn to represent their culture, the story of their name, or their family. The activity was intended to center everyone around the idea that we each have a unique identity that together makes a beautiful whole. 

SSIS Dragons - Tapestry of Experiences

Starting this semester, the Belonging Committee aims to foster a deeper connection among community members by highlighting the rich tapestry of experiences within our school. Through individual journeys, “Meet a Dragon” will allow us to learn new things about each other so that we each gain a greater appreciation of how we collectively shape the spirit of SSISThe first story in this new series introduces us to Ms. Thuy, the longest-serving employee at SSIS.

Assistant to Elementary School Principal, Ms. Thuy, is pictured here during her first year at SSIS - 26 years ago!



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