Just months before the pandemic, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist Marissa Colston and I had been pondering the need for a more robust and inclusive orientation for our students from underrepresented and underserved communities. We had written and submitted a proposal for funding for such a program from a national diversity and inclusion organization. Unfortunately, along with the closing of schools throughout the United States and world, COVID-19 also abruptly shut down our envisioned orientation program and its funding effort.
With the 2020-2021 school year underway and with more and more students able to attend in-person learning on the Westtown campus, Celeste Payne, Upper School Equity & Inclusion Coordinator, joined Marissa and me in rekindling the aforementioned new orientation initiative. In light of the difficult experiences of our own current students in distance learning, the three of us felt an even greater sense of urgency to offer an extensive pilot orientation program for at least a small segment of our new Upper School student population prior to the official beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. Marissa, Celeste, and I chose to offer a camp experience to all ninth grade BIPOC students as this target group would give us an ideal number of students new to the Upper School, around 25, for our experimental program. Also, we wanted to have about 5 additional older BIPOC students to serve as mentors at camp.