Building a Foundation of Acceptance and Compassion

February 12, 2021

By Jadzia Jean, student member, St. Mary Academy – Bay View Inclusive Curriculum Committee

In May 2020, the tragic murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, sparked a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement across the United States and around the world. Some students at Bay View saw this as an opportunity to initiate important conversations within our school community. 

A photo of Bay View students Neisa Barbosa and Sofia Vaca gathering books for the lower school that included diversity, acceptance and connections to Mercy’s Critical Concerns.
Bay View students Neisa Barbosa, left, and Sofia Vaca gathered books for the lower school that included diversity and connections to Mercy’s Critical Concerns.

Two of my classmates, Neisa Barbosa and Jia Weingard, asked the Bay View administrative faculty for their support in holding a fundraiser for the BLM movement. This request developed into a school-wide effort to bring the activism happening across the world into our school by getting more involved ourselves. With the help of our theology teacher, Matt Daly, we created two clubs: a Critical Concerns Committee, to impact issues in our community with book drives, newsletters and more, and the SOCA Club (the Students of Color Alliance), which functions as a safe space for students of color to talk about their experiences or just casually converse. Then Mary Ann Snider, our vice principal of academics and curriculum, engaged a diversity consultant, Claudia Traub, to help us form a committee to design a more inclusive curriculum.

It makes me so proud to attend a school that would work with its students to create this type of opportunity.

The Inclusive Curriculum Committee’s goal is to have upper-class students teach an identity and culture curriculum to incoming grade 9 students starting with the 2021–22 school year. This curriculum will be separate from the classes on our regular schedules and will focus on accepting others as they are, coming to terms with our own identities and the different ways we identify ourselves, and caring about the feelings and effects our words and actions have on others. We want our first-year students to be welcomed to Bay View with this course so they will know they are entering a safe, compassionate and supportive environment. With this foundation to build on throughout our time at Bay View, we believe that new students will grow to be more thoughtful and aware individuals. We also hope students will gain the confidence to be activists in their daily lives, as well, and not forget about critical issues in the world just because a movement may not be trending. 

Students from the Inclusive Curriculum Committee pictured gathering on a Zoom call to discuss their plans for the year ahead.
Students from the Inclusive Curriculum Committee gathered on a Zoom call to discuss their plans for the year ahead.

There will be eight classes taught over the course of the year, one month at a time, focused on topics such as identity, intersectionality, microaggressions, culture shock and the LGBTQ+ community, among others. Because peers will be teaching peers, we believe the lessons will be more relatable. Because these classes will come from the hearts of our members—made by students for students—we hope that discussions will feel engaging and open, creating a safe, non-classroom space to engage in civil discourse and widen our perspectives.

As a student of color, I feel closely connected to issues affecting marginalized groups, and with friends from almost every community, I am very interested in sharing identities and lifting others up. I jumped at the chance to participate in these clubs and this committee. These types of resources make my peers and me feel more included in the school community and show the effort that caring staff members put in. We hope this is the start of something that might be done more widely in other schools across the country.

The Bay View school community works to be accepting and inclusive to all. With these classes—where students can speak their minds, ask questions and grow their perspectives—Bay View students can learn to push through the struggles and resistance they face in the outside world and become prouder of their identities. Once we learn to accept and love our differences, we can be more confident in showing others who we are and in creating understanding. It is inevitable that all of us, students and teachers, will face adversity. What is most important is being able to facilitate mature conversations about identity and knowing how to get back up after a fall. 

A photo of the author, Jadzia Jean, who is a junior at St. Mary Academy – Bay View and a member of the Inclusive Curriculum Committee
Jadzia Jean is a junior at St. Mary Academy – Bay View and a member of the Inclusive Curriculum Committee

We started these projects because, as Neisa Barbosa, one of the committee founders, said: “We wanted to see change done, not spoken on.” We as a school community need to stand in solidarity on the important issues that face us, our friends, our families and our communities. It is never too early to reinforce lessons of how to be an accepting and thoughtful person. We need to use our ears to listen more, our mouths to share words of kindness and knowledge, and our hearts to accept and love the people around us. I am so proud to be a part of this committee and the other clubs that came out of the surge of activism in 2020. I cannot wait to get this curriculum started and to incorporate these important conversations into the Bay View experience. This will truly be something that students and alumnae can always hold with them.

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  1. Sister Carol

    what a beautiful story and such hope for the future. And thank you for sharing it with us. I do hope that other schools will learn from you. My prayers will be for your great success.


  2. Katie Mindling, RSM

    It is impressive that you have upper-class students teaching an identity and culture curriculum to incoming grade 9 students! Truly you are modeling principled leadership and we are very proud of you!


  3. Nancy Audette, RSM

    These young women at BayView give us all hope for the future! Thank you to them and to the dedicated staff who are working with and empowering them to develop leadership.


  4. Rose Martin

    What a thrilling way to start the day! This sounds like a wonderful initiative and may be a model for similar work in other schools. Thank you for sharing it.


  5. Sr. Richard Mary Burke

    Jadzia, you and your peers at Bay View make me so proud of you and all those who have companioned you on your life’s journey! Thank you for your example as an authentic young woman of Mercy committed to social justice and the message of Jesus.
    Blessings, Sr. Richard Mary


  6. Dorothy Mary Thum

    Thank you for your great mentoring of others. Inclusive culture is so important to our Mercy ministry.


  7. Rosemary Hudak

    Your efforts toward building an all inclusive and open community at Bay View are inspiring. You are the hope of a future of greater acceptance of differences and kindness to each other. God bless you and all working with you in these efforts. God bless you .


  8. S. Jeanne Barry

    Thank you, Jadzia, for sharing this wonderful story of true Mercy students continuing to bring Mercy to others. Bay View has contributed much to society. May your new program be blessed.
    S. Jeanne


  9. Sister Chris Kavanagh

    I love that you “wanted to see change done, not spoken on.” That is the way to make change happen. Thank you for your advocacy and action on building a better Bay View Community and world community! Blessings on you and your work!


  10. Marie McIntyre rsm, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Thank you for sharing that inspiring story from Bay View School. It is such a model for every school community, where teachers, students and outside facilitators are working together to create an integrated and realistic and loving atmosphere to work on their goals.


  11. Carla Barbosa

    Very impressive! Congratulations, girls!


  12. Sr Pat Oliver

    I attended BayView many years ago. You make me proud to be part of that school community and the effort you are putting into making a better world. Bravo and blessings!


  13. Margaret Downing RSM

    This is a very heartening account. Thank you, Neisa, for sharing this with all of us.


  14. Sr. Tina Geiger

    Jadzia Jean, I’m in solidarity with you and the women at Bay View. So proud to be Mercy! I’m part of a new effort in Oil City, PA called Together We Can, getting change done, not just talking about it as well. May the sisterhood give us the courage we need to continue to :walk the talk. BLessings. S. Tina (former teacher at BVA)


  15. Mary Sullivan

    Jadzia, your efforts at St. Mary Academy are an inspiring illustration of all that Catherine McAuley hoped for in Mercy education. Thank you so much for your hard work of universal love and leadership. My prayer is with you.


  16. Pat Kenny

    These are the voices we really want to listen to, take inspiration from and run with the ideas and actions they foster. Thank you, Jadzia, and all your friends and co-founders.
    I’m sharing your story with friends in other academies and schools where, like Wordsworth’s daffodils, ideas like yours can ‘naturalize’ and who knows what good outcomes and joy will come of it.


  17. Sister Natalie Rossi

    How wonderful that you helped to create an environment where all at Bay View have an opportunity to grow. Many prayers for your endeavors. Peace


  18. Jacqueline Dewar, RSM

    Jadzia, what a beautiful uplifting story. You and your companions give me great hope for the future. You and your work will be held in prayer.


  19. Sr. Toni Lynn Gallagher

    What a wonderful opportunity to bring young persons together and let them know their voice matters and their experiences teach us to walk differently in this world. Congratulations on this new beginning and never second guess that you are not moving forward ,one step at a time, making a difference in the futures of others as well as your own. In prayer with you.


  20. Sister Mary Pendergast

    The students at Bay View have long impressed me with their social conscience. This endeavor is outstanding and I am grateful to all of you!


  21. Susan Walsh, RSM

    Best wishes to all the committee members as your work continues. I am confident that the Bay View Community will profit from your efforts. You all are a shining light which allows your community and all of us to see life and inclusion much better. Keep up the valuable work!


  22. Sister Jane

    Thanks, Jadzia Jean, to you and your committee. It is wonderful that this is a peer to peer effort because it truly will be more relatable as you note in your article. And I am sure the ripple effect of your efforts will be amazing and long lasting. Congratulations and best wishes.


  23. Judy Carle RSM

    Jadzia,
    This is such hopeful news of collaboration, empowerment, inclusion and initiative. I love the idea that this curriculum is student-led and strongly supported by faculty. Imagine a freshman starting at Bayview with this kind of welcome and study. It has the potential to be life-changing. Imagine the impact on their families and friends beyond Bayview. I am so proud and grateful to be a part of this Circle of Mercy


  24. Martha Mulligan, RSM

    As a Bay View graduate and current Board member, I applaud Jadzia and the I C Committee for their timely and innovative plan for addressing the Critical Concerns
    of the Sisters of Mercy. Thank you, the Committee, and the Administration for offering this experience to the young women of Bay View! God bless your efforts.