An assistant coach for the last year, as well as a Pingry teacher, Mr. Hoepfl looks forward to leading Big Blue.
During the recent PSPA Middle School Coffee, held virtually on October 28, an exciting new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiative was introduced to parents—affinity groups for Middle School students. Under the leadership and support of Ms. Bria Barnes, Middle School English Teacher and Assistant Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Ms. Laurie Piette, Middle School Director; and Mr. Gilberto Olvera P '29, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, this new program, which already exists in the Upper School, was developed to help create a stronger sense of belonging for students in the Middle School community.
The idea of Middle School affinity groups was discussed last school year. However, after a challenging and informative spring, which laid bare racial tensions across the U.S. and within Pingry's own school community, the initiative was prioritized for a fall launch. This program has a number of goals and benefits, including bringing together students with shared identities/experiences, nurturing those identities, fostering kinship, and providing peer support, among others. Middle School affinity groups will also provide students the opportunity to develop self confidence, establish meaningful connections, and make life-long friendships.
Six different Middle School affinity groups are currently offered, including Asian, Black, Latinx, White Allyship, Jewish, and Gender and Sexual Orientation Alliance and Affinity. Each group will meet weekly during a flex period, starting before Thanksgiving, and will welcome both in-person and remote learners who identify with a respective group. Two adult facilitators will guide each group and, although facilitators plan discussion topics for each meeting, the hope is for group discussions to be driven largely by the students.
The Middle School community is enthusiastic about this new DEI initiative and, according to Ms. Barnes, affinity groups will be fulfilling important unmet needs. "Affinity groups are something that kids have been asking for, and providing affinity groups shows the students that we're listening. The teachers are super excited and we can't wait to roll them out in the coming weeks."
Photo: Affinity Group facilitators meet virtually in advance of the program's launch.
Contact: Dina Glasofer, Communications and Admission Associate, firstname.lastname@example.org