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Diversity Trainers Program Connects Middle and High School Students

Diversity Trainers Program Making A Difference

The Diversity Trainers organization is Wallingford-Swarthmore School District’s largest anti-bullying program. Each year, approximately 900 students at Strath Haven Middle School experience peer-led sensitivity training sessions offered by 150 high school students. This program serves the District’s active stance on bullying by “creating a tolerant and civil school community…developing the values and leadership capacity of every student participant,” said former district superintendent Rich Noonan.

 
Diversity Trainers is actually a “club” at Strath Haven High School. There are 150 students who actively participate in this organization, including 26-student leaders who meet weekly to develop and plan new activities. Members and leaders of the Diversity Trainers meet monthly to discuss issues of diversity and sensitivity and how to communicate and engage middle school students. Diversity Trainers volunteer to experience an intensive training on the Teacher In-Service day in November. In monthly night meetings, they practice leading activities and discussions as preparation for facilitating classroom sessions in the spring for grades 6 through 8 at Strath Haven Middle School. For every classroom of 20 – 25 middle school students, four high school students work collaboratively as a facilitation team to share lessons with their middle school peers.
 
From the Mission Statement of the Strath Haven High School Diversity Trainers:
 
Diversity Trainers is a student-driven organization focused on creating a safe and welcoming school culture and promoting open dialogue among students at Strath Haven High School and Strath Haven Middle School. During sensitivity trainings, students think critically about social issues to challenge bias, stereotypes, and bullying while building awareness of their effect on society. Students are encouraged to accept and celebrate the identities of themselves and others.
 
Faculty sponsor Sherry Paris says, “It’s really hard to describe the magic that happens in this group. Diversity Trainers have a special way of bonding with each other across grades and differences as they learn about themselves and social issues in order to give back to the middle school community.”
 
The comments below are from members and student leaders of the Diversity Trainers. They point to various motivational aspects of the club: making new friends, talking to people about important issues in a safe space, developing awareness, learning teaching techniques, and helping transforming attitudes and behaviors. Diversity Trainers are generally excited about how much they are learning while supporting a positive school culture.

 
- “DT is a club where I have been able to grow as an individual, a learner, a public speaker, and a leader.”

 
- “Diversity Trainers has made such a positive impact in my life that it would be hard for me to picture myself without it. The social education and awareness that it teaches is invaluable.”

- “The Diversity Trainers are so important because I think it is one of the only opportunities for people my age to experience, even if it is just for a few hours every month, a time where they can sit down and discuss some of those "touchy subjects" in a relaxed and comfortable environment. We are given the ability to collaborate with friends, but more importantly, with people we wouldn't normally go up to in school. This is so important because DT takes down these social barriers and allows you to have a voice and to give input on your own experiences outside of school. I think everyone has something new to bring to the group and a chance for people’s ideas to be shared is so valuable.”

 
- “On the first day that the Diversity Trainers Leadership team met, we all talked about why we joined Diversity Trainers in the first place. Every single one of us mentioned our own middle school Diversity Training experiences, and how they changed us.”

 
- “Throughout high school I have personally experienced encountering issues involving race, sexual orientation, bullying, and stereotypes. However, due to being exposed to Diversity Trainers and becoming one myself, I am not intimidated by such issues. Diversity Trainers assist middle school kids in preparing them for a smooth transition to high school and even the world outside of school. The topics discussed during Diversity Trainers should never be avoided, and that’s why Diversity Trainers are there to help.”

 
- “Sometimes bullies don’t even realize that what they do with their friends is bullying, and Diversity Trainers can help them to realize that and to make an effort to stop. I know that when I was in middle school, I was often mean to certain people with my friends, and I didn’t think anything of it until I experienced Diversity Trainers myself in seventh grade. I just thought I was having fun with my friends, and, most importantly, I did it because everyone else was doing it. Diversity Training helped me to realize that going against the pack is okay if you don’t think what your friends are doing is right.” 

 
- “I think the Diversity Trainers is of great importance for a number of reasons. One reason is that it provides a safe environment for people to make new friends and talk about important subjects. It makes people think about how their actions can affect others. The Diversity Trainers help to build a sense of community between the middle school and the high school which will continue when they reach high school. They can see some familiar faces when they reach high school. In addition, I think that the Diversity Trainers prepare the middle schoolers to come to the high school in a more open-minded way, which in turn prepares them for their lives after high school.”

 

The lessons learned in Diversity Trainers continue to serve Strath Haven High School graduates in college:

 

“I notice daily how much diversity training impacted me and how the tools I learned there have carried over into college. There really is no way for me to fully express all the gratitude I have for Diversity Trainers.”