Wildcats for Equity
Amid national calls for changes to attitudes and policies in regards to racial equity, Westminster has renewed its commitment to equity and inclusion among our students, families, alumni, and faculty and staff. As our community takes steps toward realizing a School culture that is more equitable and inclusive to members of all backgrounds, this webpage is your home for updates and highlights.
"Our school community has a challenging journey ahead of us. Our promise is to fully ensure Westminster provides the same powerful experience of belonging for all members of our community. Realizing this potential will require bold imagination and hard work."
- Joel Murphy '76, Chairman of the Board of Trustees
Keith Evans, President
Westminster is dedicated to providing opportunities for our community members to listen to, learn from, and share with one another. Students, parents, alumni, and faculty and staff have gathered in several ways to have the vulnerable conversations that are essential for creating a deep sense of belonging for all Wildcats. The transcripts and videos below are a sample of these opportunities and have been archived here for viewing at any time.
Click on the tabs to view ways our community has engaged in conversation.
Parent Webinar Series: Becoming A More Inclusive Community For All Students and Families
Current parents are invited to a three-part webinar series to discuss our continued work in becoming a more inclusive community for all Wildcats. The following sessions which will focus on a specific aspect of this important topic. Links to the event will be available to parents in Wildcat Web and in the Weekly Parent Update.
The Wildcats for Equity Q and A Series is designed to give you a deeper understanding of some of the ways Westminster works toward equity and inclusion on campus, as well as tools you can use to help your family discuss and work through these topics. In this week’s installment, our communications staff sits down with a few of the leaders of Common Ground, a PAWS committee, to talk about creating an inclusive environment of welcome.
Common Ground’s fall activities have included virtual meetings with the following speakers: Judy Osborne (Upper School Equity and Inclusion Coordinator) and Jennifer Veatch (Middle School Equity and Inclusion Coordinator) about identity development; Dana Ugwonali and Dominique Holloman ’97 about their respective work with the Board of Trustees and the Alumni Association Governing Board; Upper School faculty member Dr. Scott Stewart, who told the group about LGBTQ initiatives at Westminster; and a parent sharing Diwali traditions.
View past Q and A conversations here.
- Q: Let's start by talking about what Common Ground is. Can you tell me about the group?
- Q: This year, more than ever, parents are looking for ways to connect with each other and with the School. What has Common Ground been up to this fall?
- Q: Who is part of Common Ground?
- Q: What is the Common Ground experience like?
- Q: How has being part of Common Ground been important for you?
- How to Join Common Ground:
Lacy Hernandez (PAWS Vice President of Community Building): The mission of Common Ground is to celebrate and engage the vibrancy of the Westminster community through events and conversations that explore the diversity of cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives that help shape our school. This mission guides everything that we do, and we work hard to uphold it.
Maria-Claudia Palacios (Middle School Co-Chair): Common Ground is a PAWS committee, formed by parent volunteers. Our job is to create opportunities for all Westminster parents to connect through our commonalities by organizing events where we can all meet in an attempt to build trusting and lasting relationships.
Ceci Villanueva (Upper School Co-Chair): We are only one piece of the overall picture when it comes to celebrating the different identities and cultures in our community. The School has parent affinity groups, and there are other opportunities through PAWS to participate in educational events about race and culture, and Common Ground is a place where people who are all different from one another in some way come together to learn about those differences and connect across them.
MCP: This year, knowing that we were not able to meet in person and won’t have the traditional parent events, we invited all parents that expressed interest, via PAWS sign-up, to virtual informational meetings, where we connect and support parents in our effort to build community.
Rand Hagen (Middle School Co-Chair): We started this year with a more focused mission, especially being virtual, to help people connect with each other during a particularly isolating year. We are volunteer parents committed to creating an environment that is welcoming and inclusive to all families, and we are concentrating on doing that to the best of our ability with virtual tools.
LH: As the school year continues, we intend to hold additional virtual events until we are able to get together physically in the post-COVID world. As was the case in the fall, we intend to have our virtual events be topical and relevant in the context of Common Ground’s mission and the community’s input. When the School is able to safely welcome in-person visitors again, we would like to continue our presence at school-wide events as being ambassadors for building community.
MCP: Any Westminster parent can be involved! The committee is a resource and support network for parents and the Westminster community at large to feel more connected, not only within a specific group, but within the Westminster community as a whole.
CV: When you think about the name Common Ground, that means we are embracing everybody. This is about embracing and learning about all the different aspects of our community, so all are welcome. Our role has to do with bringing people together. We facilitate conversations.
LH: The Common Ground experience is all about welcoming and embracing all types of people within our Westminster community. The intent is to make it comfortable and enjoyable to be with people who may be different from you. The aim is to learn from others’ perspectives and backgrounds to make us a stronger community collectively.
MCP: It's been a great experience to know more Westminster parents during our meetings and to learn from listening to the different perspectives of members of our community.
CV: Common Ground is also a space where we prioritize being gracious. We are not all coming from the same level of experience or knowledge on any of the things we might learn about. For example, the leaders of each of the parent affinity groups participate in Common Ground—they each bring their own knowledge that the rest of the group may not have, and vice versa. Each of us is a product of our own personal experiences. Even on our committee, we all have different approaches and experiences as well. We talk about those and find common ground when we talk about sensitive topics. We all come from a mentality of wanting to learn and to create space. We approach with curiosity. We are not judging; we are curious.
MCP: Being part of Common Ground has given me personal growth because it motivated me to learn more about myself and about our community. I’m also grateful to be part of the effort to keep Westminster a welcoming and supportive community.
LH: I value inclusion as well as kindness and have seen the positive impact of bringing diverse perspectives, experience, and backgrounds together to address issues, solve problems, and build a strong sense of community. I have always felt it was important to understand and learn from people who are different from you. My belief and hope is that the more we understand and learn from each other, the better we will be able to engage with each other individually and as a community, in the end for better.
CV: I saw the enormous potential and level of intelligence at Westminster when we were comparing schools for our daughter. Regardless of creed, we were aligned with the Christian values of Westminster. When I learned these values could use a bit of strengthening in kindness and welcome and embrace of diversity of thought, I thought, ‘this can only make the community better.’ By listening to people and doing research, I realized there was a need, and Maria-Claudia offered a place at the table. If I don’t bring my voice to the table when I have the opportunity, I feel I’m doing the community a disservice. It’s about taking kindness and respect and acting on them.
If you are a Westminster parent who is interested in participating in Common Ground, please email any of the co-chairs:
MS Common Ground Co-Chairs
Rand Hagen email@example.com
Maria Claudia Palacios firstname.lastname@example.org
US Common Ground Co-Chairs
Camille Nogueira email@example.com
Cecilia Villanueva firstname.lastname@example.org