by Yvette Avila, Middle School human development and health teacher/Middle School student equity programs coordinator
The Lakeside Middle School student affinity group program is an important part of students’ experience at our school. Affinity groups offer opportunities for people who share an identity to connect, share experiences and resources, and identify successes and challenges that impact their ability to engage with others or with an organization. Lakeside’s Middle School affinity program creates space for student dialogue and activities to support students’ understanding of their racial identity and what it means in a larger societal context. It helps students develop a positive sense of identity and self. It builds students’ self-awareness, knowledge, and skills. And it prepares students to participate in and lead affinity groups at the Upper School, where there is a wide range of student-led affinity and alliance groups.
So, what does the program look like at the Middle School? Once a month, all students gather in an affinity group. Each group is facilitated by trained Upper School students who share that identity; those students are supported by a Middle School faculty or staff member. This facilitator model is one of our students’ favorite parts of the program. It helps build connections between our younger and older students and allows Upper School students to share their knowledge and experiences, both at Lakeside and in the greater community.
After students meet in affinity groups, they gather in advisory groups for further discussion and activities. This is an opportunity for students to ask questions of their advisors and each other, and it helps provide students with valuable skills in intergroup dialogue as they engage with and seek to understand experiences and perspectives unlike their own (a key part of developing an equity and inclusion mindset). The discussions in affinity groups often build on content that students are learning in their classes — for example, lessons about identity development from human development and health classes, a novel they might be reading in English, or historical events they’re studying in history. This integrated learning helps students have a holistic understanding of their identity and understand the material in new ways.
Here’s what one student shared with me when reflecting on her experience in an affinity group. “[It] was one of the first times I really got to talk about race and ethnicity with other people who shared the same identity. It was also one of the first times I was able to have a student role model who shared my identity as well,” said Kira, who is now at the Upper School. “I have super fond memories of my leaders and always remember looking for them whenever I was on the Upper School campus. My favorite part of the group was being able to share and validate my peers’ stories as we explored what it meant to be mixed race.”
This program becomes even more meaningful when families get involved. After each affinity group meeting, parents and guardians receive an email with prompts for discussion — we encourage you to continue the conversation at home. We also encourage you to learn about and participate in affinity groups hosted by the Parents and Guardians Association — you can read more about the program here, and stay tuned for information about the 2022-2023 affinity groups offered for parents and guardians.
The following student affinity groups will be meeting in the 2022-2023 school year.
- African, African American, or Black affinity.
- East Asian or Pacific Islander affinity.
- Greater Middle East and Northern African affinity.
- South Asian affinity.
- Latino/a/e/x affinity.
- Multiracial affinity.
- White affinity.
We hope you’ll learn more about Lakeside’s affinity and alliance program: Read about the Upper School program, reach out to members of the equity and inclusion team, or learn about the parent and guardian affinity group program. And watch for more emails from me throughout the year.
Yvette Avila coordinates student equity programs at the Middle School. You can reach her, and all DEI team members, at email@example.com.