For the past three years, Graland has celebrated Community Day, a chance for students to engage in dialogue regarding diversity, equity, and inclusivity in order to appreciate and learn from one another. The goal is to create connections and allow opportunities to see and value the humanity in every member of our community. To build strong character and prepare students to be engaged citizens and thoughtful leaders, the event focuses on three of Graland’s Guiding Principles: Build Community, Honor Individuality, and Cultivate Compassion.
Now more than ever, it is important to build community. Students practiced active and deep listening to gain insight into the ways we have collectively experienced the pandemic - both similarly and uniquely - as we continue with the theme, “My Story. Your Story. Our Story.” Since last year, we have focused on civil discourse and civic engagement. Building on One Graland, we continue to listen and process one another’s varying perspectives thoughtfully in order to nurture growth, collaboration, and empathy, especially through our differences.
The day’s program this year was designed to be safely accessible in person, in a hybrid model, or virtually. The day began with Dr. Bettina Love, an award-winning author and the Athletic Association Endowed Professor at the University of Georgia. In addition to sharing parts of her story, Dr. Love’s talk called for us all to make known what is unknown by telling our own stories, stories of brilliance and joy that get us closer to justice. She challenges us to see the contributions of others and reminded students that they are never too young to change the world stating, “you can be little, but your voice can be mighty.”
From there, students connected with one another through various activities within grade-levels and across divisions to spark their sense of self, sense of others, and sense of the world. These social emotional skills are tied to ultimately understanding justice and injustice, as well as inclusivity and exclusivity. By having a firm understanding of oneself, one can be compassionately curious about others and the world, and be inspired to be an engaged citizen and thoughtful leader.
Our closing speaker was Stephen Brackett of the alternative hip hop band, Flobots, which was founded in Denver. Mr. Brackett is also director of special programs, co-founder and past board president of Youth on Record, a nonprofit whose mission is to empower Colorado’s underserved youth to achieve their academic, artistic, and personal best by employing local, professional artists as their educators. The presentation was titled “Learning How to Fly with the Help of My Friends,” and he noted the importance of listening, building relationships, and taking care of each other while answering questions, sprinkling in musical performance and freestyling.
Because joy and laughter create safety and community, the day ended with an interactive dance party, which included games and prizes, hosted by DJ Will Gill, who was named the #1 virtual party DJ in the world by Google and virtual event DJ by the Wall Street Journal.
With a balance of storytelling, deep listening, and fun, Community Day was an opportunity to do a deep dive into the values of connection, solidarity, and caring for our community as we continue to create belonging during a global pandemic.
Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.