Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Students, faculty and staff, and families bring more than distinct learning styles to Westmark School. Differences in terms of ability, economics, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and sexual orientation enrich our community and the educational experience of our students.
Westmark is committed to embracing individual identities and ensuring that everyone in our community feels welcome. This commitment begins in the classroom and extends to our entire school community through co-curricular offerings and faculty and staff professional learning.
Our students learn differently, and our faculty teach differently—which allows all of our students to have equal access to curriculum and programming. One of the key ways we prepare our students for successful futures is teaching them how to become responsible members of society. To succeed in this endeavor, we integrate multicultural practices and perspectives into curriculum—promoting awareness of identity, diversity, equity, and inclusion across grade levels and throughout our community. While learning to interact with and respect other individuals and cultural groups, students develop a strong sense of self and the ability to understand and analyze their own culture. We believe this work positively impacts the school culture as a whole.
Faculty and staff participate in regular professional learning to define the purpose, practice, and outcomes of Westmark’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts. The National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference (NAIS PoCC), the Southern California People of Color in Independent Schools (SoCal POCIS), and Facing History and Ourselves are a few of the organizations that have guided our DEI initiatives in and out of the classroom, providing new perspectives and tools for implementation.
Faculty apply the tools acquired through professional learning across subjects and in Advisory, providing the tools and strategies needed to help students become thoughtful, responsible citizens. Teachers are able to use DEI best practices, strategies, and approaches to foster students’ empathy and reflection; improve students’ academic performance; and help build a “brave” and inclusive school community.
Middle and Upper School students may participate in affinity groups with other students in their division. The affinity groups available each year vary depending on the makeup of the student population. Meeting once a week during the school day, members explore issues of their shared identity to reduce isolation, discomfort, and marginalization; affirm emotional and intellectual responses to inequity; and celebrate their differences. In addition to engaging in social justice issues, students in affinity groups develop critical thinking and social-emotional skills, learning how to make a difference through self-advocacy and allyship.
During the school year, small groups of Upper School students attend leadership or diversity conferences—such as the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) or Close Up’s Community Impact Symposium: Race, Justice, and Equity—to develop their social justice practice and learn about allyship and community building. Following the conference, the students lead assemblies and activities to educate their peers about what they learned.
Westmark is proud to host a chapter of the national mentorship program Eye to Eye. As part of the program, Grades 9–12 mentors meet weekly after school with Grades 4–8 mentees. Using art to help students understand and embrace their learning differences, Eye to Eye is a rewarding opportunity for mentors to serve as positive role models and for mentees to develop self-esteem, self-determination, and self-advocacy.
Westmark is also relaunching its Big Lion, Little Lion mentorship program, which pairs Upper School students of color with Lower and Middle School students of color. Through arts, crafts, and games, mentors provide guidance and shared experiences while discussing issues related to identity and diversity.