New Video Celebrates Diversity & LODI Efforts

New Video Celebrates Diversity & LODI Efforts
Posted on 12/14/2020
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Collage of Diversity at LakotaA new video presented by Lakota’s Outreach Diversity & Inclusion (LODI) department features the rich diversity that our students bring to Lakota’s classrooms every single day. 

“Lakota’s diverse makeup has changed over the years. Why that’s a good thing is because our students need to understand that the world is a different place,,” said LODI’s Senior Director Elgin Card, who has been at the helm of Lakota’s internal and external inclusion efforts since July this year.

But LODI, which was established in January of 2018, has been advancing the district’s attention to student subgroups long before this year. The district’s peer-to-peer staff diversity training program, Champions for Change, was established even before LODI and is one of several different diversity-centered programs at play nowadays. Others include student diversity groups at Lakota’s secondary buildings; a “Kinship Connections” support group for non-traditional families and caregivers; early literacy programs like the Latino Literacy Project and “Fellas & Fiction”; and “Somos Lakota”, a task force to support Lakota’s Hispanic families, just to name a few. 

All of it is designed to celebrate the many forms of diversity throughout Lakota. As LODI team member and Champions for Change leader Aisha Moore reminds, “Diversity is a whole range of things,” she says. “It’s not just black and white because that’s usually what people first think. It’s disabilities. It’s religion. Anything that makes people different is diversity.” Some of those difference can be captured by these current student statistics: 

  • 35%: Non-caucasian or a different ethnicity

  • 15.5%: Economically disadvantaged

  • 56: Languages spoken

  • 12%: Cognitive or physical disabilities

  • 31%: Gifted learners

  • 7%: Limited English Proficient

As an extension of Champions for Change, which leans on building representatives to serve as ambassadors for their diversity efforts, LODI spearheaded a district-wide staff training about privilege on one of this fall’s professional development days. 

“It’s a difficult, but important conversation to have,” said Moore, referencing the training’s purpose to simply guide staff toward simply being aware of the unique challenges experienced by some of their students and families who fall into different subsets. 

Kinship Connections” is a newer group led by LODI team member Leah Aguilar. The support group meets monthly, offering up tools and strategies to grandparents and other non-traditional primary caregivers to Lakota students. The idea came out of a “Community Conversation” directed at this special interest group last school year. 

Beyond such programs already in full swing, Card has a long list of priorities for the months and years ahead - most of them from the students who make up the diversity groups he started this year in Lakota’s 7-12 buildings. 

“Student voice is everything,” Card said. “They tell you like it is and have some of the best ideas because they speak the truth.”

Among those priorities are an effort to continue integrating more inclusive and culturally minded content into Lakota’s curriculum. While a monumental challenge, he is also committed to increasing the district’s representation of minority staff members. Card is also looking forward to the day (post-COVID-19) when he can bring to life his vision of a student-to-student mentor group that brings Lakota’s older minority students into the younger buildings. 

Above all else, the former principal at Lakota West High School has enjoyed the opportunity to continue working one-on-one with students at all grade levels. He is a regular visitor in all of Lakota’s buildings, called on to simply talk with students who may be struggling with any situation, feeling or question related to diversity. 

“The biggest blessing for me has been going into our buildings to mentor our kids,” he said. “When I can get down on the floor and see eye-to-eye with a student and just have a good conversation, it’s a good day.”