Message from the Director of Diversity
I fell in love with America in third grade. My teacher was a woman with white hair named Mrs. Cibulis. Every morning in class we would sing “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” by Samuel Francis Smith. The first day of class we had to transcribe the words to this patriotic anthem. As I wrote, I imagined the brave pilgrims, led by William Bradford, who came to our country to escape persecution, landing upon the rocky shore of Plymouth, haggard but hopeful. I imagined them befriending Squanto and the Pawtuxet Indians during the first Thanksgiving. I imagined the bravery of George Washington and the other revolutionaries defeating the British to gain independence for our country. I visualized Thomas Jefferson hunched over his writing table in the night feverishly penning the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights …”
I raised my hand and asked, “What about girls? Do they get alien rights too?” Being the third-grader that I was, I knew that girls were different, but I was pretty sure that in all fairness girls should have rights as well.
My teacher reassured me that women also got unalienable rights and explained to me that an amendment to the Constitution in 1920 clarified the point, but 144 years seemed a long time to fix a clerical error in Mr. Jefferson’s homework. I was sure Mrs. Cibulis would have given him a “C” for such shoddy work.
Throughout the school-year, Mrs. Cibulis continued to provide us with fun, challenging assignments that taught us important things about life. Once we were asked to draw a picture of our families and discuss the pictures in front of the class. I was proud to share my picture. It depicted my father (black), mother (white), sister (black), me (black), grandfather (white), grandmother (black) and my dog (yellow).The presentation seemed to go well, so I was confused as to why I had to stay after school for a parent-teacher conference. My teacher and mother patiently explained that my mother and grandfather were black, but very light-skinned. I looked at them and solemnly said, “Mrs. Cibulis, you are clearly mistaken; you’re tanner than my mom.” These two caring women looked at me with bemusement and explained what “black” meant. My world changed forever!
For the first time in my life I felt alien. I was afraid because it can be dangerous to be different, and there are challenges that must be faced. I was also proud to be part of a heritage of heroes who fought for tolerance, equity, justice, and freedom. I believe most of us admire this kind of courage because all of us have been or know someone who is different. We each share the hope that we will overcome tyranny, bigotry, and hatred so we can reach our aspirations for success – not in spite of – but because of our uniqueness.
Sewickley Academy has a director of diversity to help assure that all students learn in a safe environment that appreciates them as individuals, encourages their unique gifts, and empowers them to lead the way morally and ethically beyond the confines of our walls. I have the privilege and honor at Sewickley Academy to work among other guardians of hope for this great nation, our students, and the future.
Director of Diversity