Community Dialogue on Social/Racial Justice

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Thursday January 18, 2018

The South Burlington Community Series on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, a collaborative effort of Healthy Schools South Burlington, continues its program of events next week. The community is invited to join University of Vermont (UVM) staff members and facilitators Annie Valentine and Troy Headrick for the second of a two-part series on social and racial justice Thursday, January 25, 6:30-8:00 p.m., at Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School. Now in its second year, the series intends to continue to bring members of the community together to engage in dialogue and listen and learn from one another on topics often difficult to discuss. Based on feedback received from participants at last year’s series, the focus for 2018-2019 is on defining terms and concepts associated with social/racial justice to develop a common language and deepening understanding of those terms and concepts, according to Healthy Schools Coordinator Susie Merrick.

Valentine, a South Burlington resident, is UVM’s Step UP Bystander Intervention Coordinator. She clarified that all are welcome to the second of two sessions on January 25 even if they did not attend the first on November 30. “We welcome all who want to engage in meaningful conversation whether you are just beginning to understand concepts of diversity, equity, justice or are looking for ways to put practice to concepts,” she said.

When asked what she enjoyed most about the November 30 session, resident Sally Borden noted, “I appreciated that this event brought a cross-section of our community together to discuss challenging issues in a very intentional way. I especially appreciated having young people in the audience with their refreshing questions and perspectives.” Resident Doug Bugbee agreed and added, “Troy Headrick and Annie Valentine helped participants feel at ease and established a trusting environment at the outset so that dialogue could take place.”

That trust is essential, noted Headrick, assistant director for the Center for Student Conduct at UVM, saying, “these are often difficult conversations to have. They attach to very emotional and personal stories.”

“My hope,” explained Valentine, “is that our community can grow stronger and learn to really know one another. Due to bias and stereotypes, we make judgements on one another yet do not know one another. By engaging in conversation, we open up a world of possibility. We share ideas, explore the intent and impact of our behaviors, question beliefs and deepen our knowledge of what a community truly is.”

For further information and questions, contact Healthy Schools Coordinator Susie Merrick at smerrick@sbschools.net or 652-7035.