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CA Curious

Building Bridges: How One Conference Creates Community at CA and Beyond

March 16, 2023

“You can make what you’re passionate about become a reality […] You can always have a role!”

These rousing words, uttered by keynote speaker Dr. Ya Liu, could not have been truer to the Building Bridges Across Communities conference story. The first of its kind in Cary Academy history, the conference brought together Asian-identifying students and faculty from across multiple Triangle schools in a day of fellowship, fun, and future-oriented enthusiasm. 

It all began one year ago after Leya Tseng Jones, Isa Oon, and I returned from the Asian Educators Alliance (AsEA)conference in California. Invigorated and inspired by the work of Asian diaspora educators from across the country, we immediately began plans to bring a similar necessary experience to our community through connections at other local schools. As Leya explained,  “Collaborating and building strong working partnerships with our counterparts at Durham Academy and Ravenscroft was so rewarding; witnessing the initiative, organization, and collaboration of our student leaders with their counterparts was truly inspiring. Each group took the lead on one component of our morning and thoughtfully managed every detail. I couldn’t be more impressed with what they accomplished together over just a few Zoom meetings of face-to-face time.” 

From the beginning, it was clear to this union, known as the Asian American Alliance, that the conference should not only be student-focused, but student-led. Three student leaders and members of the Upper School Asian American Pacific Islander Affinity Group, senior EJ Jo, junior Eric Xie, and junior Angela Zhang, each took a large role in organizing with other student leaders as well as fellow affinity group students. When asked about how close the first vision was to the final result, the answers were positive. 

“Initially, we wanted to invite a keynote and have a few sessions for discussion,” Angela said. “The result was just that; it was very similar to what we originally thought.” Eric added, “Our turnout was great, especially on such short notice, and every participant definitely seemed to want to be there and actively participated in the group activities and asked insightful questions to our keynote speaker, Dr. Liu. Looking back, there’s very little I would change, if anything at all.”

On Wednesday, March 8, Cary Academy students were joined by members of Durham Academy, Ravenscroft, St. Mary’s School, and the Montessori School of Raleigh. First on the agenda was the keynote address by Dr. Ya Liu, highlighting the connection between the personal and the political.

“I didn’t intend to be a leader,” Dr. Liu told the audience after outlining her impressive experience in community organizing. “It’s precisely because of the work I did. You may think, ‘I’m just a middle schooler, I’m just a high schooler, what can I do?’ […] A lot of these experiences will become part of who you are.” Dr. Liu went on to encourage students to seek out resources from beyond their schools and to “find the friends who will support you. Find the teachers who will support you.” 

Following the speaker, all participants were separated into randomized groups to experience a spectrum activity in which members were asked to discuss the intersections of their identity and what effects this had on their relationship with themselves and others. Students then attended one of several student-only workshops while adults exchanged encouragement and visions for the future in a different affinity group. 

“In both discussion sessions, I heard from many students about their experiences with their ethnicity and race,” Angela recalled of the student portion. “Even though I had never met these students before, it seemed that we had experienced the variation of a common struggle: our adolescent urge to be ‘white.’ So it surprised me how isolated everyone felt compared to how everyone was going through the same thing. Therefore, my biggest takeaway is that we were and are never alone.”

On the adult side, Leya observed that “There are so few Asian-identifying faculty/staff in our schools. We – the adults – need to find time to gather, even if virtually, to connect and support each other. Our brief time together was affirming and empowering.” 

When I looked around the Discovery Studio at the fellowship lunch, it was clear that every person present felt fulfilled and connected. In a world where being Asian American can often lead to so much stress and pressure from many sources, the beauty of Asian diasporic joy becomes not only a delight but a necessity. Looking forward, I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we all intend to keep building this reality we’re so passionate about.

Written by Lauren Bullock, Language Arts and World Cultures Teacher

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Reflections on AsEA

April 14, 2022

Legendary Asian American civil rights activist Yuri Kochiyama once said, “Life is not what you alone make it. Life is the input of everyone who touched your life and every experience that entered it. We are all part of one another.” Ironically, it’s often when I gather with people under the banner of a shared identity that this sentiment truly comes alive, and I realize how intricate and vast the human experience really is.

From March 25th to March 27th Leya Jones, Isa Oon, and I all had the privilege of sharing space with other Asian American educators at the Asian Educators Alliance (AsEA) National Conference in Newport Beach, California. From the very beginning, the conference clearly communicated an intent to coalesce as a community first, rather than leaning into the academic atmosphere that comes both with the setting and the content. Conveying this tone may seem easy on the surface, but as someone with the experience of organizing over a dozen national and international conferences, I know that it’s one thing to mouth “community” and it’s quite another thing to physically relax into communion with strangers from across the country.

I’ve spent my whole life being the only Black, white, and Vietnamese person in the room, so I’ve come to expect that a room will be filled with more of Emily Style’s proverbial “windows” than “mirrors” to my experience. While “Asian American” began as a political term meant to unify various people groups experiencing similar oppression, in recent times it’s been appropriated to stand for an easy checkbox in the diversity list that erases the multiplicity of identities it is meant to stand for, often reducing us to singular representations.

At the AsEA conference, however, not only were there a myriad of Asian Americans represented in origin but also in skin tone; you could look around a room at any given moment and witness the vibrant rainbow of pale to tan to deep brown that reflects the reality of those of us in the global majority. As Jolina Clement mentioned in the “Multiracial Identity: Hyping the Hyphen” workshop, there’s a real privilege in being “in a space and not [having to] explain why I get to be in a space.” Often it was difficult to tell who was a keynote speaker, organizer, workshop leader, teacher, or student in the space, creating a climate of openness and adding a real authenticity to the moments of sharing.

This impression not only imbued the optics of the space, but also the content. The theme, “Radical Re(Imagining) of Asian America: From Myth to Truths,” created a shared metaphorical and literal landscape for both dispelling harmful myths (such as the Model Minority) and reconnecting to pre-colonial understandings of our world, often connected to “myth” and folklore. In “Hyping the Hyphen” we broke down the notion of multiracial Asian Americans as a recent phenomenon, tracing historical records back before the Chinese Exclusion Act and leaning into thinking of multicultural experience as pluralities, not fractions. In “Return to Our Cultural Psychologies to Disrupt the White-Dominant LGBTQ+ Spaces and Narratives” Lilia Cai and Maria Graciela Alcid interrogated what it means for us as educators to hold space for both our own and our students’ intersectional identities without forcing them to fit into narratives that were not built with us in mind. In “We Are Not Monoliths: From Essentialism to Panethnicity” Ricco Siascoco continued the conversation on what it means to have a shared identity that forges connection but can also erase vital disparities between cultures.

Student programming was also a highlight of the conference, involving multi-day workshops with educator and writer Dr. Liza Talusan who challenged participants to dig into what they wanted to build knowledge, engage in reflection, and then move to action to determine 1. what their respective schools needed to start doing, 2. what their schools needed to stop doing, 3. what needed to change, and 4. what needed to continue. This experience culminated in a final share out where students’ voices were centered, reading each other’s work to protect privacy while being able to voice their concerns candidly with their teachers in the presence of other educators. It provided a key reminder that our job as teachers is a continuous push for positive change centered on the needs of future generations in conjunction with ours, a reminder that the age-old translation of I love you, “Did you eat yet?” is a call to both feed ourselves and our students, together.

Written by Lauren Bullock, Middle School Language Arts teacher

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Acclaimed historian addresses Upper School on how everyday people can change the world

March 2, 2021

On Friday, February 26, the Upper School welcomed award-winning historian Dr. Crystal Sanders, who marked the conclusion of Black History Month with a talk entitled “Humanizing the Heroes: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives.”

The address was an examination of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and John Lewis’s lives. By explaining that these now-exalted figures of the Civil Rights Movement were everyday figures who were moved to take action, Sanders hopes that young people will understand that they, too, have the power to make meaningful changes to address injustice and inequality in their own communities.

Sanders is Associate Professor of History at Penn State and is a 2020-21 fellow at the National Humanities Center. Sanders is the author of A Chance for Change: Head Start and Mississippi’s Black Freedom Struggle published by the UNC Press in 2016 as part of the John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture. She is currently writing a book on black southerners’ efforts to secure graduate education during the age of Jim Crow.

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Computer Science for Social Justice

December 17, 2020

It is the most wonderful time of the year. Yes, it is the holiday season, but the month of December is when educators worldwide celebrate Computer Science Education Week!  

Founded in 2009 by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), Computer Science Week originated as an effort to convince policymakers to promote computing as a core science and profession. ACM chose the week of December 9th in honor of Grace Hopper’s birthday. (Hopper was the creator of the very first compiler—a computer program that translates code written in one programming language into another—and is credited with coining the word “bug” to mean an error in a program).  

Since 2009, Computer Science Week has grown dramatically, becoming a collaborative worldwide call to promote computer science education broadly. At the heart of the movement is a focus on improving inclusivity in the field—historically dominated by white males—by focusing on introducing women and others from underrepresented groups to computer science.  

According to the College Board, “women who try AP Computer Science in high school are 6 times more likely to major in computer science than those who do not, and Black/African American, Hispanic /[LatinX] students are 7 to 8 times more likely”. Historically, young women represented only 22% of those taking the AP exam while students of of color only represented 13%. For many, the lack of diversity in the field is not from lack of interest but rather a lack of access and awareness.  

And that’s where Computer Science Week and the Hour of Code come in. 

Adopted by Computer Science Week in 2013, the Hour of Code is intended to offer a gentle introduction to computer science through fun, one-hour interactive activities accessible through the Code.org website. Since its introduction, 1,106,972,371 people have tried an Hour of Code activity, of which, “45% of Code.org students are young women, 50% are students from marginalized racial and ethnic groups, and 45% of US students are in high needs schools.” 

While such efforts to increase diversity and access are exciting, they alone are not enough; we must strive for further equity and inclusivity in the field. To that end, this year’s Computer Science Week theme—computer science for social justice—goes beyond issues of diversity to offer deeper consideration of these timely and complex issues.  

Computer science for social justice asks us to consider questions—not only about how computer science can be a positive catalyst for change—but, just as importantly, how it currently perpetuates inequities, including sexism, ableism, and systemic racism.  

Want to be inspired? Checkout the hashtags #CSforGood and #CSforSocialJustice to see how innovators across the globe are tackling some of these thorny issues and harnessing (transforming?) computer science for the social good.  

Some project highlights include: 

  • Investigations into how discrimination is built into artificial intelligence and facial recognition systems,  
  • Critical analysis of how cultural values, including racist beliefs, are encoded into the technologies that we create,  
  • The creation of video games intended to develop empathy and awareness for the daily lived experiences of marginalized groups,  
  • Widespread work to make computing more accessible to those with disabilities,  
  • Apps and software dedicated to reducing users carbon footprints to slow climate change, and 
  • Coordinated efforts to build mentorship networks for underrepresented groups.  

Together, projects like these offer a powerful reminder of the hard work left to be done as we move towards an equitable future, as well as the promise that lies ahead. With all that has gone on in the world this year, there is no better time to talk about access, inequality, and privilege in technology and its role in education and society. I look forward to exploring these issues with our students in the months to come.  

CA’s Computer Science Week is presented by the advanced topics’ computer science class and the Women in Science & Engineering club. As with all things 2020, it looks a bit different this year. While we haven’t been able to offer many of the in-person events that typically characterize the week, we did kick off with a celebratory Hour of Code last week (congratulations to student winner Matthew Schricker ’23, and our faculty winner Charlotte Kelly for completing the most activities).  

And, happily, while the world may have ended their Computer Science Week celebrations, ours will evolve into something bigger throughout the year; this year’s theme of #CSforSocialJustice is too big and too important for just one week. Stay tuned for future events held by the WISE club and a host of activities on future Flex days. 

The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) annual campaign has used the phrase “The idea you don’t have is the voice you haven’t heard. Inclusion changes what’s possible. […]”. With that in mind, I invite everyone to join in the conversation and reach out to me if you would like to be involved in some way. 

Written by Karen McKenzie, Director of Technology and Innovation

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CoExist

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The Work Ahead

August 20, 2020

Photo: The leaders of CoExist (l to r): Sarah George ’21, Clay Thornton ’21, Vibhav Nandagiri ’21. Not pictured: Jordan Cuffee ’21.

This summer, we issued a letter to the community reaffirming our values and reiterating CA’s longstanding commitment to the hard—at times uncomfortable—introspective work of diversity, equity, and inclusion that have been core values since we first opened our doors. We pledged to be part of the solution and to work together to engage in anti-racist work to ensure that CA is a safe space for all our students to thrive.   

As you may have noticed in your social media feeds, in recent months, “Dear@” and “Black@” Instagram accounts have popped up all over the country. These accounts are part of a powerful national movement, as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and their allies share their experiences, rightfully calling independent schools and universities across the United States to account for their roles in perpetuating systemic racism.   

We know from stories shared within our community that CA is not exempt from this charge. Despite a longstanding commitment and history of anti-racist work, we have not been perfect. There is much work to be done, and we are committed to taking it up.   

We recently responded to a newly-launched DearCaryAcademy Instagram. I’ll be honest. These posts are difficult to read and reckon with. Introspection is crucial to anti-racist work, even (especially) when it is difficult. The experiences reported in these posts, however, are crucially important to hear, to acknowledge, and to discuss, process, and address as a community. That’s also why we have been soliciting stories from BIPOC members of our community on our anti-racism action page.   

We hope that owners of this account will be open to formally partnering in our anti-racist efforts, much as we partnered with our alums and parents of alums this summer in a series of listening Zoom calls. In those calls, alums and parents of alums were offered a safe space to share their experiences and perspectives. Being able to have those conversations openly and transparently has been instrumental in allowing us to be more effective and responsive and to chart the critical work that lies ahead this year (you can follow our evolving anti-racist work and planning at http://united.cary.academy/anti-racism/.)  

Indeed, some of the most challenging work that lies ahead is in creating a community where we can dialog openly and honestly about these painful matters. Where we can protect and respect BIPOC as they come forward to share what might be painful, scary, even traumatic, experiences, while also discussing, processing, and addressing them as a community. Only then that we will be able to heal, to learn, and to grow.  

To that end, this year, I am particularly excited to work in partnership with CA’s revamped CoExist Committee. Led by Clay Thornton ’21, Jordan Cuffee ’21, Vibhav Nandagiri ’21, Sarah George ’21, and Student Dialogue Leader Meirav Solomon ‘21, this group represents a passionate group of students working on behalf of their peers. They feel it imperative for young people to have a voice; they are dedicated to ensuring that alums ten years from now have a different, more positive experience than those who came before them.  

Central to their efforts is creating a safe space for intersectional dialogues, where we can work together across our differences to discuss and address hard topics in meaningful ways. This is foundational and crucial anti-racist work, and Meirav has been hard at work planning dialogues in partnership with our affinity groups and student clubs, like the Campus Conservatives.   

I could write for hours about the work that lies ahead of us, but instead, I would like you to hear from our Chief Student Diversity Officer, Clay Thornton:  

My name is Clay Thornton and I am a current senior at Cary Academy (Class of 2021). I am honored to serve this year as Cary Academy’s Chief Student Diversity Officer, or CSDO for short, a role committed to fostering a diverse, equitable environment for our community by leading Cary Academy’s CoExist club. This year, however, I am not leading CoExist alone. For the first time, Cary Academy has established a CoExist council to bolster my role as CSDO, comprising of my fellow Class of 2021 members Jordan Cuffee, Sarah George, and Vibhav Nandagiri. CoExist provides a space for members of the Cary Academy community to learn about and engage with diverse perspectives and identities through dialogue, workshops, and affinity groups. We provide an intersectional curriculum that encourages students to create and foster a better, more equitable CA community. By equipping students with the necessary tools to understand and respect different perspectives and identities, we prepare students to effectively collaborate and build relationships in their future beyond CA. While CoExist is a longstanding club within the CA community, the CoExist council is working this year to rebrand CoExist to match the current needs of the community.  

This school year will be unlike any year we have seen before. Not only must we adapt to the necessary protocols regarding the COVID-19 global pandemic, but we must also prepare opportunities for students to productively explore the tension throughout the United States. Disagreements over health protocols are omnipresent. Civil unrest, including protests against police brutality and racial injustice, has emerged in every major American city. Political tensions are boiling over as Biden and Trump begin their gruesome political warfare, marching quickly towards November 3rd. Americans are truly living in a historic moment, one filled with tension and in desperate need of cohesion. In an effort to find this cohesion, CoExist is pivoting to an introspective agenda. This year, more than ever, CoExist should focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion within the Cary Academy community. CoExist believes that this change will allow students to separate the high-tension experience with equity work in our nation from the equity work happening within our school community. For this reason, a new Social Justice club, unaffiliated with CoExist, has been started at Cary Academy, dedicated to educating students on the societal issues of our nation, as well as organizing ways for students to be catalysts for change. CoExist, however, will host dialogues, workshops, and affinity group meetings, not to discuss policy or politics, but rather to determine what we can change about ourselves and our community to make Cary Academy a place of which we can all be proud.   

Striving for a diverse, inclusive Cary Academy community is not a question of liberal or conservative. It is not an issue of democrats versus republicans. It is instead a commitment to embracing our differences, fostering collaboration, and celebrating our many identities. I hope this pivot will encourage more students, faculty, and staff to make this commitment because, if we all work together, we can create long-lasting, meaningful change within the Cary Academy community.  

Written by Danielle Johnson-Webb, Director of Equity and Community Engagement and Clay Thornton ’21, Chief Student Diversity Officer

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Inspiration in Seattle: the People of Color Conference

January 9, 2020

Front row, left-to-right: Shelton Shepherd, Twanna Monds, Donna Eason, Kelly Wiebe, Freya Kridle.  Back row: Bill Velto, German Urioste, Danielle Johnson-Webb (not pictured: Trish Yu)

Imagine over seven thousand independent-school educators, from across America and around the world, the vast majority of them people of color—Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans, Asians—congregated in one place to seek pedagogical, psychological, and spiritual inspiration from dynamic speakers, eye-opening workshops, and engaging affinity groups. What does that all add up to? Hands down the best conference I’ve ever been to—and I’ve been to my fair share in my twenty-five years as a teacher.

I’ve had the pleasure and the privilege of attending the People of Color Conference twice, most recently in December. With a cohort of other CA educators, I traveled to Seattle for three days of professional and personal enrichment. Suffice it to say, we all experienced just that. How could we not? The conference’s theme—1619. 2019. Before. Beyond. Amplifying Our Intelligence to Liberate, Co-create, and Thrive—commemorated the 400 years since the first slave ships reached the so-called “New World”, and the keynote speaker, Dr. Joy DeGruy, an internationally renowned expert on “the intersection of racism, trauma, violence, and American chattel slavery”, as noted in the program, brought the house down with her rousing presentation on how the enduring legacies of horrific past injustices can be overcome by education, resilience, and community. Amid darkness, there is hope—that’s what she conveyed to her rivetted audience.

Or how about Valarie Kaur? A modern-day Renaissance woman—civil rights activist, celebrated documentary filmmaker, lawyer, and founder of the Revolutionary Love Project—she spoke eloquently about love as a form of “sweet labor”, imploring us to see ourselves in the suffering of others, not only in those most unlike us but also in those who espouse hatred. There are no monsters, she insisted, only wounded humans. What’s beneath their stories? What’s behind their hate? Forgiveness, Ms. Kaur declared, is not forgetting; it’s freedom from hate.

I could go on about the speakers. Want to learn about what it’s like to grow up in Los Angeles as a gay Filipino American? Look no further than Dr. Anthony Ocampo, who told his own story to convey the struggles and the triumphs gay men of color from immigrant families experience coming of age in America. As faculty sponsor for the GSA and the son of Bolivian immigrants, I found Dr. Ocampo’s talk especially fascinating.

How about the workshops? Perhaps the most intriguing one I attended was titled “They Don’t See Me Either: Fighting the Bias of Artificial Intelligence”, about how AI systems that use facial recognition, retinal scanning, and other biometrics too often feature built-in gender and racial biases, a consequence of flawed data sets created by programmers often unaware of their own inherent and often unconscious prejudices.

Finally, the affinity groups. At CA, as well as at the two other independent schools I’ve taught at, I’ve always been a minority, one of a handful of Latino faculty, so you can imagine how inspiring it was to be in an overflowing conference room with scores of other Latino independent school educators from around the country. In small groups, we shared our stories—who we are, where we come from, why we teach—stories as varied and vital as our familial, cultural, and geographical backgrounds.

I’m lucky to teach at a school that values professional development, and I can’t thank CA enough for affording me this transformative experience. As an English Department, we collaborate to enrich our literary selections with interdisciplinary connections—film clips and essays, short stories and poems, historical studies and current events—and the insights I’ve gained from the People of Color Conference will undoubtedly inform my thinking as I work with my colleagues to refine existing courses and create new ones.

Written by German Urioste, US English chair

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Building many skills necessary for life

November 7, 2019

As the Director of Equity and Community Engagement, I have the privilege of working with students in a variety of capacities. Whether it’s supporting students who are doing a coat drive for local migrants, getting excited about what prototypes our students are creating for the Conrad Entrepreneurship Challenge, or working with students through dialogue, our CA students are making a difference across numerous important fronts. Consistently, I’m impressed at the thoughtful care and joyful enthusiasm in which students reflect their work, and proudly share their identities with the larger community in the spirit of learning, inclusion, and community-building.

Most recently, I was lucky to be involved in the Diwali celebration hosted by our Upper School Indian Sub-Continent Affinity Group (ISAG). Diwali is a Hindu celebration, symbolizing the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.

This year at CA, ISAG celebrated by inviting Middle and Upper School students to participate in the Indian art of rangoli after school. The group of students had already begun before I arrived. One student enthusiastically asked, “Would you like to make one?” “Of course,” I answered.

I am not sure how many of you have ever had the opportunity to do rangoli art. Rangoli, which has a rich and complex cultural history, involves the creation of beautiful, intricate designs by hand or stencil. There is a very intense moment that happens right after you pull up the stencil because, of course, you don’t want to mess it up.

As we pulled up the stencils, revealing perfect designs, everyone exploded with glee! The students cheered and kindly complimented each other’s creativity. It felt so uplifting to feel included, to share in the joy of these students participating in a cultural tradition that is important to them.

The next morning as I arrived at school, I saw quite a few of the members of our ISAG students dressed in what they referred to as “traditional Indian clothing”. I could see their pride and excitement for the day. The ISAG group had invited Middle and Upper School students to join them for a Diwali lunch celebration. They were unsure how many of their peers would attend, and I could see their nerves increase as it grew closer to the time for the event.

Their concerns were unfounded. As the aroma filled the air from delicious dishes such as paneer and chicken makhani, rice, and naan, the students began to arrive by the dozens. One after the other, students and teachers joined us for lunch. The students had also set up a station for henna and had music playing. Joyful attendees oohed and aahed over the delicious food and the warm atmosphere.

When I think of a learning community, I think of this event. Students at CA were given a chance to lead, to share and celebrate one of their holidays, to joyfully include and educate their peers about an important cultural tradition, and to collaborate with classmates and adults in the community. These moments not only build many skills necessary for life, but they also build pride and self-confidence.

I know that I have many more events to experience at CA, but this one left me with such a sense of gratitude for an institution that knows that it is not just about calculus or grammar, but it is also about moments like a Diwali celebration. I am grateful that they allowed me to be a part of such a wonderful community-building event.

Written by Danielle Johnson-Webb, Director of Equity and Community Engagement

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Together… at a Distance

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Parents support the cultivation of our learning community

April 4, 2019

Current parents Adeola Lawal and Jacqui Jett serve as ambassadors at a Admissions event.

We’re still elbow-deep in the number-crunching and report-drafting that comes at this point in the Admissions Cycle! We are certainly celebrating another unprecedented season, with a 6% increase in our total applications – 359 for the 19-20 school year and counting.

And what is the key to the continued growth in interest in CA? Quite simply, our reputation and the word-of-mouth recommendations that parents offer within their various communities are invaluable (the “wonder buses” help, too).

The CA Admissions Team of four would be swamped without the incredible support from parent volunteers whose outreach and hospitality efforts are unparalleled. In fact, since this time last year, Cary Academy parents have

  • conducted 100 campus tours;
  • helped facilitate 6 Tour and Information Sessions that welcomed over 400 visitors to our campus;
  • packaged 500 give-away bags; and
  • conducted countless ambassador phone calls (and/or coached their Charger through their own ambassador call).

We offer our sincerest thanks to all of our parent volunteers, especially the New Parent Committee of the PTAA and their leaders for 2018-19: Suzanne Bright, Jacqui Jett, and Melissa Matton.

In my blog post this past September, I offered that “the admissions office is coordinating our outreach efforts to cultivate more touch-points with African-American and Latino families, from visiting more local elementary and middle schools to partnering with educational foundations who specifically support underrepresented populations.”

While the admissions team achieved all the goals noted above, the most powerful partnership grew from within our own community.

Cary Academy’s Parents of African-American Students (PAAS) affinity group offered their partnership and support with phenomenal outcomes—from increasing the presence of families of color at admissions events, to hosting a recruitment event off-campus at the home of Peter and Annette Greene, to serving as outreach ambassadors for families within the admissions process.

The PAAS efforts to support admissions were invaluable and speak tremendously to the power of modeling the mission of Cary Academy to our students—we strive collaboratively together toward excellence. Our sincerest thanks go out as well to Annette Greene, president of PAAS, and all of the PAAS parents who joined in this impactful work.

Of course, the admissions cycle for the 2020-21 school year is right around the corner, and we look forward to continued partnership in the years ahead, both with these current groups as well as with other constituencies on campus.

Written by Heather Clarkson, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid

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It’s Good to be Heard

May 10, 2018

Many of you have heard me greet members of our community with the phrase, “It’s good to see you.” And, the response can be “It’s good to be seen”.  Well, I’d like to add a little bit more to that lineup; “It’s good to be heard.”

Lately, I’ve been observing the public discourse displayed in a variety of genres such as social media, television, and radio. From my perspective, it is very hard for some people to listen to each other when they are on opposing sides of a topic, initiative, or idea.  Our school has found a practical way to engender common respect while having some public and social discourse.  Over the past year, the Leadership Team, CA students, and CA colleagues have worked with Essential Partners to create an atmosphere to promote greater understanding, and perhaps it will lead to problem-solving, through Dialogues Across Difference.

I think back to the many arguments my brother, Bruce, and I had growing up.  We were only 2.5 years apart; however, we were seemingly light years apart from everything you can imagine – school, ideology, clothing, food, and sports- especially sports.  Often, I think our primary goal was to get under the other’s skin; one of us had to have the “last word.”  The funny thing is that no matter how much discourse or disagreement we had – at the end of the day, we were still brothers that were willing to stand up for each other.  I hope the same sentiment can happen for our community members as well.  We can agree and disagree on a variety of things.  At the end of the day,  we are still members of the same family – the human family.

Recently, Essential Partners worked with a small group of parent leaders that will facilitate these courageous conversations with our parent population in the fall.  The group spent 10 hours together; being trained how to facilitate Dialogues Across Difference.  Here are a few comments about the experience from the participants.

Through the Facilitating Dialogue Across Differences training, CA provided parents with an incredible opportunity to learn how to share our authentic stories and listen to understand each other.  This module for dialogue allowed all of us in the training to connect on the human level.  I look forward to using the dialogue model shared in any capacity to help CA continue the important work of staying curious about each other and our entire school community. ~ Ashley Techet

Working with Essential Partners I discovered new ways of fostering discussion within a multi-viewpoint community.  I learned how to structure an environment that nurtured trust and was free of judgment. The goal is that everyone leaves with greater understanding and a feeling of being understood. ~ Parul Shah

Essential  Partners helped me view conversations through a completely new lens.  They taught us to “Listen to understand.  Speak to be understood,” and that “Behind every belief is a person.  Behind every person is a story.” ~ Paula Corkey

I know this process is not the answer to everything that stresses our community, but it is a courageous start.  Can you imagine a community that sees your humanity and hears your voice?   Can you imagine a community that comes together across our divides; across our differences? If you are curious about what that looks like and feels like, look no more.   We are building that community together right now! We see and “HEAR” you.

One last thing, one of my colleagues, Mina Harris, attended several CA related diversity events recently.  Here is her reflection; she will have the “last word.”

One of the many perks of working at CA, for me, is the opportunity to attend diversity training and lectures. Just this week I was fortunate to attend both the NCAIS Diversity & Inclusion Conference and the PTAA panel discussion on Generational Similarities & Differences. I feel that it’s important for all of us to continuously strive to improve our ability to relate to and empathize with one another and these two sessions both focused on this issue. The common thread, though discussed from different perspectives, was that in order to improve our relationships and interactions with others we need to do two things: (1) try to see issues/situations from the other person’s perspective and (2) become aware of our own unconscious biases. I appreciate being involved in discussions and learning about studies that help me make myself and my community a better place. ~ Mina Harris

Written by Jason Franklin, Director of Diversity & Inclusion

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