2020-21 Voices of Change Essay Series

community members activate advances in catlin gabel curriculum and culture

While diversity, equity, and inclusion work has been a growing priority for the school in recent years, community involvement has accelerated as well. Students, parents, teachers, staff, and alumni have stepped up and are helping drive our ongoing evolution by taking action. They’re forming affinity groups, partaking in conferences, initiating diversity-focused fundraising campaigns, collecting empirical data, and documenting their lived experiences. The following stories represent a small sampling of this involvement.

A New Perspective on the Way We Connect

By Nesteren Demirdag, Parent & adult leader for the Middle School students’ Middle Eastern Affinity Group

We didn’t have a teacher at the school who identified as Middle Eastern, so they asked me if I would be the adult in the Middle School group. My daughter and her friend are the leaders, and I’m there to be more like a mediator—to keep the conversation going.

It’s not like we discuss regional politics or anything. It’s more about finding a new perspective on the way we connect with each other. We talk about our countries, our favorite holidays and how we celebrate, our parents, which cities we’ve been to . . . we’re just sharing. That’s how we decided it should go: As if you went to somebody’s house and they’re serving you tea and talking about their life.

I feel like it’s very important to be aware of our own background. We are all at Catlin Gabel because we have similar thoughts and ideas about education, the world, the environment. We have these larger issues that bring us together, but we’re also very diverse. And in that diverseness, we have such a small sampling of certain cultures, they might be overlooked, or feel like it. So, it’s important to provide opportunities for kids to feel like they're not just one of a kind, they’re part of a larger group within this big group.

One reason I wanted my daughter Leyla to be part of Catlin was because of this cultural diversity and how that creates a community that’s really close. In Turkey, when I went to school, I was pretty much with the same group of kids from elementary school, and they’re still my friends. So, I thought, well, I’d like her to have a similar experience. And I think Catlin creates that environment.