Inclusivity Activities at Padua

These+are+4+Inclusivity+clubs+at+Padua.+I+feel+like+it+is+%5Bour%5D+responsibility+to+make+sure+everyone+has+a+place%2C%E2%80%9D+said+Mrs.+Vavala.

Samantha K. '24

These are 4 Inclusivity clubs at Padua. “I feel like it is [our] responsibility to make sure everyone has a place,” said Mrs. Vavala.

The four pillars to the Padua society are spirituality, scholarship, service, and sisterhood. The fourth pillar of sisterhood is one of the strongest core elements of life at Padua. The community at Padua is expansive and all encompassing, but in any large community, there are people left on the margins or who don’t feel entirely included. This is where groups like Black Student Union (BSU), I.D.E.A., Charla Conmigo, and Agape come in.

“Padua is known for its sisterhood and the strong connection and bonds formed, but in any situation there are always people left in the margins. And I feel like it is [our] responsibility to make sure everyone has a place.” said Mrs. Vavala.

Clubs and activities like BSU, I.D.E.A., Charla Conmigo, and Agape bring the students that don’t feel like they fit into smaller communities of people. It gives them a comfortable place to speak about issues that matter, or just a casual place they don’t have to worry about how they act in a class setting.

Each one of these clubs were made based on student requests or influenced by students. For example, students with a similar background wanted to have a space together like Black Student Union.

“A lot of students didn’t see other students that they might identify with and they wanted to have that connection with them and wanted to establish a personal connection,” said Mrs. Snider.

“Agape was made off of a student request. A group of students felt like no other activity at the time fit them and they went and said they wanted an activity for anyone who feels like they haven’t found their fit yet at Padua to have a place to be. That is where the name Agape comes from, a piece from scripture that talks about ‘Agape love’ or the welcoming and inviting love to any person in any situation just being another human being,” Mrs. Vavala said.

Some of the clubs like Agape are more structured, some are open and free-forming like Charla Conmigo, and some have a mission like BSU.

Agape is a club run by Señora Vintigni, Mrs. Vavala, and Mrs. Schneider with between 20-30 regularly attending members. It was started in 2018 because there was a want for a space or a group that accepts all no matter the circumstance.

A regular meeting starts with an icebreaker and then the meeting is run by student leaders. The 4 student leaders prepare a presentation beforehand and then lead into a discussion about the topic.

“I very much enjoyed the presentation on self esteem and self care… It was a nice and well-needed reminder to take time for yourself, and that self esteem comes from within… [at]any meeting I always come out with a better headspace then I went in with.” said Señora Vintigni.

“Being in Agape just affirms to me that we can continue to love people as human beings. That is the ending message I want to leave people is to treat people with kindness and that’s the bottom line,” said Mrs. Vavala.

Black Student Union was another student-requested club. It was started in 2014 because Black students wanted a club with other Black students in Padua, so they built a community around that.

Originally, it used to be a space for Black students to socialize, but now BSU is a club run by Miss Closson and Miss Snider with 21 members, and it has a specific mission.

“In this organization we believe in exploring the cultural diversity all over the world, but, also in the community. We strive to advance minorities in the education of Black history. We stand as one to come together as a whole in the form of Peace, Grace, and Humility. We are the future of the world, we are the starters of a new generation, we are Black Student Union.

Black Student Union does multiple things including running the culture board, participating in charity projects, running the Black History Month announcements, and having an alum speaker series. There are also senior officers who take on additional leadership roles, and a program to mentor children at the majority-Black school, Servium Academy.

“One of my favorite things is our meeting with the student officers. It’s really nice bonding with the seniors before they go off to college. It is really special to me,” said Miss Closson. The student officers help run the meetings and events that go on.

“The mentorship program we had with the Servium Academy… gives us an opportunity in seeing how our Padua BSU members are doing on how they can represent Padua as mentors. It is nice seeing them talking to younger students and watching them relate….” said Miss Snider.

Charla Conmigo is a new club to celebrate Latino culture. In the fall of this school year, Mrs. Volpe started it with the intention of making it a single semester class where students can speak Spanish in a casual setting rather than in a strictly Spanish class environment, but the idea was changed into a club.

The club meets and members talk about events happening in their own lives, but fully in Spanish. It is a casual stress free area where students can practice speaking real-world Spanish.

“The best part of being a part of this club is the connection I get to build over the language. For example, old students that I’ve taught coming back and connecting in conversation through the language.” said Señora Volpe.

I.D.E.A. (Inclusion. Diversity. Equity. Awareness) is also a relatively new club. It was started in the spring of 2020 after the murder of George Floyd. Two seniors and two juniors approached Mr. Mahler with the idea for a club for all students of color to discuss their feelings and the experiences they’ve had.

A normal meeting this school year starts off with the two original juniors (who are now seniors) and the student leaders presenting a recent event in the news. This then leads into an open discussion on how this situation might relate to their own experiences. There are about 40 regularly attending members.

Like BSU, I.D.E.A runs some events in the school like occasionally making announcements in the daily announcements and running a Lunar New Year celebration where anyone in the school could pick up a red envelope filled with sweets. But, Mahler explained that the greatest accomplishment is the conversations they can have during meetings.

“One experience I had that will always stick with me, is this girl was talking about how she has never had a teacher pronounce her name right and she started crying,”Mahler said, “That is when I realized how important things like names and identities are so important and to recognize them. I don’t think I will ever forget that.”

Not only are these clubs environments where students can be together, but they have also educated and inspired the teacher proctors.

“I have personally learned from the students in Agape, especially [about] new points-of-view and perspectives – and I think that is so important to talk about in diversity. Listening to different perspectives and not having just your own opinions [is important] because that is where people get stuck sometimes and can’t ever change,” said Vintigni.

Mrs. Closson explained that her experience at Padua in 1994 as a Black student was very different than the experience Black students have today.

“I am a graduate of Padua…and we didn’t have a BSU or anything like that,” said Closson. “For me to see what we are doing now, it is true advancement. But clubs like BSU, I.D.E.A, and Agape, all of them just show how progressive we have become as a community. It is just very eye opening to me to see how the students view the world, view society, and view the things that are happening around them and in America. Just how aware they are, how opinionated they are, and how correct they are in the validation of their feelings is very foreign to me because when I was here, we were not at that level. Not even close.”

“I do enjoy learning from the students about your generation and what they enjoy, what makes them tick, what they are concerned about, and what they care about,” said Snider, “Watching different groups work together on cultural projects, or even just watching them online is very empowering and really informative. I think that information deserves to be spread all across Padua.”

“The conversations I’ve had in I.D.E.A have made me a lot more comfortable with being uncomfortable. The conversations we have there make people including myself feel uncomfortable, but it is a good discomfort that we have to deal with to progress as a people,” said Mahler.

For the future, these clubs have a lot of bright ideas.

“We have a lot of fantastic plans for next year in BSU to continue our mission and all of the progress we’ve made. And if we accomplished all of these great things online then sky’s the limit for next year. We can only get better and better from this.” said Miss. Closson.

Especially in this year’s climate, clubs that ensure that every Padua student feels seen and heard are more important than ever. Padua has taken big strides in supporting its students of color, and this support will only increase over the years.

“This past year diversity and inclusion has been a forefront of media…and I think that people as a society are starting to realize that diversity is not always just racial diversity. Diversity in people’s attitudes, thought processes, identity, gender identity, sexual identity, all encompassing. It has opens a lot of people’s eyes, hopefully for the better, and will continue to do so.” Señora Vintigni said.