Real Talk: Peer Facilitators Lead DEI Conversations

Leadership, one of our six Habits of Mind & Heart, is an essential component of the Whitfield experience. Opportunities big and small, formal and informal, exist in and out of classrooms. As a result, all students grow as leaders during their time at Whitfield and develop skills like accountability, effective management, and an appreciation of others strengths and perspectives that they will use throughout their lives. 

This spring, Whitfield launched Real Talk, a new program that cultivates student leadership and promotes the School’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). As an extension of the student-led Diversity Council, Real Talk provides a framework for DEI-focused conversations that are created and led by Real Talk peer facilitators and conducted during Advisory classes.  The Real Talk program will be piloted in 9th grade this May with plans to extend it through all other Upper School grades next fall. Through engaging activities, students will reflect on the roles their identities play in their experiences, build their cultural competence and empathy, and practice their civil discourse skills by having respectful conversations as they share personal opinions and experiences. 

Peer facilitators were nominated by faculty then invited to apply for the position. 27 students applied to be peer facilitators and 20 were selected. Since returning from Spring Break, the peer facilitators have been meeting every other Wednesday before school to build their facilitation skills, deepen their cultural competence, and plan and practice activities, which they will then facilitate next month. Director of Equity & Inclusion Anna Warbelow and faculty member Heather Lavezzi are the faculty advisors.

“The idea for Real Talk came out of our Diversity Council meetings when students continued to ask how we can have more authentic conversations about the topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion during the school day,” said Dr. Warbelow. “Having peer facilitators fits well because we know that kids are more comfortable talking with each other. From a leadership standpoint, peer facilitators will model what it looks like to engage in these conversations and encourage their peers to do the same.”

Reflections from Real Talk peer facilitators

"I applied to be a Real Talk Facilitator so I could encourage diversity in thinking, to open my mind to new perspectives, and meet new people. I love learning new things and talking to new people, and I think that being a peer facilitator has let me do exactly that." Evie Doles ’23

“I hope the Real Talk program impacts the Whitfield community and beyond so that individuals feel comfortable saying what's on their mind. Of course, people will disagree with each other, but it is better that we know what each other believes because then, we are able to learn from each other and to grow empathy.”  Savannah Harris ’22

“I hope that through Real Talk, we are able to better the Whitfield community and create a safe space for everyone to openly be whoever they are. I hope we can start conversations where everyone is able to openly express their opinions without feeling judged. I want everyone to know that Whitfield is a safe space where they can be who they are free, without worrying about the thoughts of others.” Taryn Jones ’24

“I applied to be a Real Talk facilitator because we need to have real talks about the important events and problems that affect the world we live in. I believe that by discussing the issues in our society we can make them better and spread awareness and cause positive change.” Annika Capellupo ‘24

“I would encourage other students to become a Real Talk facilitator if they are passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion. It is a great way to better understand others in our community and their perspectives. Facilitation skills are also extremely useful outside of this program in seminar discussions and real life.” Hadley Wilkins ’22

Real Talk Facilitators

Liz Bierhals ’22
Annika Capellupo ’24
Emma Casado ’23
Jack Courtney ’23
A'dia Dickerson ’22
Evie Doles ’23
Anna Gau ’24
Savannah Harris ’22
Chris Harvey ’22
Taryn Jones ’24
Michael Koman ’22
Zoey Martinez ’23
Gemar McBurrows ’22
Nolan Pinkley ’24
Brooklyn Rhodes ’23
Keyao Song ’22
Dean Warren ’22
Hadley Wilkins ’22
LaiJeon Williams ’24
Sarah Wooten ’24