Custom Class: post-landing-hero

Through Belonging Summit, Seventh Graders Explore Different Cultures and Build Relationships

For Rowland Hall’s seventh graders, a sense of belonging—and finding that in community—has been a top focus this year.

And at the school’s first annual Belonging Summit, held in May, seventh graders were able to examine how refugees and immigrants find their place in a new home through different aspects of their lives, identities, and cultures. They also explored why belonging is so important in the first place, and how a feeling of belonging is the basis of well-being, learning, and growth.

“It feels way better to belong,” said seventh grader Adrian J. “You have a place where you can be and not feel like you have to worry about anything.”

The summit was the culmination of a year of cross-disciplinary studies in English and world studies that included tutoring work with immigrants and refugees from Horizonte and the Asian Association of Utah. In April and May, the students met with kids from Sunnyvale Neighborhood Center for a series of cross-cultural clinics in dance, soccer, and basketball on Fridays after school. They also interviewed adult mentors from community partners like the International Rescue Committee and the English Language Learning Center who directly serve those who resettle in Salt Lake City and the surrounding communities. In the days leading up to the summit, they worked with artists-in-residence to learn folk arts and traditions from other cultures, like Central African dancing and Ukrainian egg painting. 

“This is an opportunity for these students to work closely with people who are in immigrant and refugee populations in terms of the struggles they have to feel belonging and how that matches or doesn’t match our students’ experiences,” said Dr. Chandani Patel, director of equity and inclusion. “I would hope that it will help them understand that every person’s way of being in the world is very unique to who they are, and culture looks like a lot of different things, and belonging looks like a lot of different things, and it all adds up to a community.”

Groups of students at the summit presented ways to further foster belonging and build community. Some kids highlighted the importance of sports when bringing people together. Another group looked at how language barriers can be overcome. Food was a very popular option, with students not only bringing in dishes to share from their backgrounds, but also teaching others how to make things like tamarind candy. 

“I chose music because when you join together to play music you become a community,” said seventh grader Alex P. “In sixth grade, I took an elective that was about jazz, and I learned that jazz had a very big influence on New Orleans creating communities.”

We want people to be curious. A lot of times we’re scared to ask questions because we are scared of coming off a certain way, but when you understand other people’s perspectives and their backgrounds you can create more good.—Vivian L., class of 2029

In addition to their group presentations, each individual student created a zine about their subject and how it contributes to belonging. The idea came from the fact that zines are currently being used in cities like New York and Portland to communicate with transplanted populations because they are easy and inexpensive to produce.
    
“We talked a lot about how the zines would be a good takeaway for people attending the event,” said English teacher Jill Gerber. “Some of the kids even translated them into different languages specific to the populations at Sunnyvale.”

Many of the presentations not only had zines available for community members to take home, but also information about the partner groups and how to support their efforts. The push wasn’t only about telling people about the work they had done as students, but also about the work that still needs to be done. But the students understood there were hurdles to overcome.

“We want people to be curious,” said seventh grader Vivian L. “A lot of times we’re scared to ask questions because we are scared of coming off a certain way, but when you understand other people’s perspectives and their backgrounds you can create more good.”

The Belonging Summit is one part of Rowland Hall’s efforts to engage students in shaping solutions to the world’s hardest problems. The issue of refugee and immigrant resettlement is a demographic reality in Utah and these students could make a real difference in helping those in need.

“I think the incredible piece was their growth in what it means to be a culturally literate person,” said world studies teacher Margot Miller. “You don’t have to travel the world to get this type of experience. It lives in Utah, and it’s only growing.”

Community

Through Belonging Summit, Seventh Graders Explore Different Cultures and Build Relationships

For Rowland Hall’s seventh graders, a sense of belonging—and finding that in community—has been a top focus this year.

And at the school’s first annual Belonging Summit, held in May, seventh graders were able to examine how refugees and immigrants find their place in a new home through different aspects of their lives, identities, and cultures. They also explored why belonging is so important in the first place, and how a feeling of belonging is the basis of well-being, learning, and growth.

“It feels way better to belong,” said seventh grader Adrian J. “You have a place where you can be and not feel like you have to worry about anything.”

The summit was the culmination of a year of cross-disciplinary studies in English and world studies that included tutoring work with immigrants and refugees from Horizonte and the Asian Association of Utah. In April and May, the students met with kids from Sunnyvale Neighborhood Center for a series of cross-cultural clinics in dance, soccer, and basketball on Fridays after school. They also interviewed adult mentors from community partners like the International Rescue Committee and the English Language Learning Center who directly serve those who resettle in Salt Lake City and the surrounding communities. In the days leading up to the summit, they worked with artists-in-residence to learn folk arts and traditions from other cultures, like Central African dancing and Ukrainian egg painting. 

“This is an opportunity for these students to work closely with people who are in immigrant and refugee populations in terms of the struggles they have to feel belonging and how that matches or doesn’t match our students’ experiences,” said Dr. Chandani Patel, director of equity and inclusion. “I would hope that it will help them understand that every person’s way of being in the world is very unique to who they are, and culture looks like a lot of different things, and belonging looks like a lot of different things, and it all adds up to a community.”

Groups of students at the summit presented ways to further foster belonging and build community. Some kids highlighted the importance of sports when bringing people together. Another group looked at how language barriers can be overcome. Food was a very popular option, with students not only bringing in dishes to share from their backgrounds, but also teaching others how to make things like tamarind candy. 

“I chose music because when you join together to play music you become a community,” said seventh grader Alex P. “In sixth grade, I took an elective that was about jazz, and I learned that jazz had a very big influence on New Orleans creating communities.”

We want people to be curious. A lot of times we’re scared to ask questions because we are scared of coming off a certain way, but when you understand other people’s perspectives and their backgrounds you can create more good.—Vivian L., class of 2029

In addition to their group presentations, each individual student created a zine about their subject and how it contributes to belonging. The idea came from the fact that zines are currently being used in cities like New York and Portland to communicate with transplanted populations because they are easy and inexpensive to produce.
    
“We talked a lot about how the zines would be a good takeaway for people attending the event,” said English teacher Jill Gerber. “Some of the kids even translated them into different languages specific to the populations at Sunnyvale.”

Many of the presentations not only had zines available for community members to take home, but also information about the partner groups and how to support their efforts. The push wasn’t only about telling people about the work they had done as students, but also about the work that still needs to be done. But the students understood there were hurdles to overcome.

“We want people to be curious,” said seventh grader Vivian L. “A lot of times we’re scared to ask questions because we are scared of coming off a certain way, but when you understand other people’s perspectives and their backgrounds you can create more good.”

The Belonging Summit is one part of Rowland Hall’s efforts to engage students in shaping solutions to the world’s hardest problems. The issue of refugee and immigrant resettlement is a demographic reality in Utah and these students could make a real difference in helping those in need.

“I think the incredible piece was their growth in what it means to be a culturally literate person,” said world studies teacher Margot Miller. “You don’t have to travel the world to get this type of experience. It lives in Utah, and it’s only growing.”

Community

Explore Our Most Recent Stories

You Belong at Rowland Hall