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Eileen Kugler Champions Diversity

diversity advocate eileen kugler
Diversity advocate Eileen Kugler addresses the 2016 National Blue Ribbon School representatives. USED photo by Joshua Hoover

Diversity advocate Eileen Kugler drew on her experience as an involved parent in an increasingly diverse high school and as a volunteer in an impoverished South African township in charting a path to greater inclusion of diverse voices, especially in schools. She described strategies for engaging parents of school children, such as a collaborative quilt made by parents in the South African village of their hopes and dreams for their children. Pointing out powerful features in the individual quilts and the stories that went with them, she declared, “strengths accrue not only to the middle class,” and quoted an African activist: “You can’t wait for people to empower you.” Parents and families in distressed communities need empowerment, not pity, she said. 

To illustrate the challenges of seeing people as many-faceted, Kugler had audience members record four key things about them. Apart from obvious features such as race and ethnicity, she observed, many things about us are invisible and only emerge for others through respectful conversations. She challenged the audience to remove one of the four things they had written about themselves–and then two. Noting the discomfort such limitations induces, “This is what we ask some parents and families to do,” she said. She stressed the importance of learning peoples’ stories and empowering them to bring their full selves to interactions, especially at schools. Schools can be beacons for this kind of dialogue, she said.  Learn more about Kugler’s work at Embrace Diverse Schools. Eileen Kugler has generously made additional resources available at http://bit.ly/BlueRibbonSchool

 

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