Our school’s founder Paul C. Ransom asked that his students commit themselves to belonging to what he described as the world’s third class: people who do not live for themselves, but rather seek to serve their God, their country, and their fellow man with all their heart, mind and strength. Ransom Everglades School was built to nourish and expand this third class. Today, with the increasing interdependence of world economies, the rapid spread of technology, and the growing cultural and ethnic diversification of the United States, we are hard put to continue cultivation of this class without a clear, unfettered and uncompromised commitment to a diversified faculty and student body, a robust and inclusive curriculum and a campus culture that cultivates a true sense of belonging.
Cultivating a sense of belonging is not accomplished with a one-size-fits-all approach. The character of each group that contributes to our academic and social culture deserves to be studied and celebrated. The Office of Inclusion and Community Engagement, with the guidance of the RE Board of Trustees, Head of School Rachel Rodriguez, COO and Interim Head of the Upper School David Clark ’86 and Associate Head of School John A. King Jr., spent last year looking for opportunities to celebrate our faculty and students. We had festivals in honor of Diwali, the Chinese New Year, Hispanic Heritage Month and Black History Month, and enjoyed many other cultural events. We also launched affinity groups at the upper school to ensure we create safe spaces for dialogue, and facilitated inclusion and bias training for all RE students, faculty and trustees.
This school year, we have begun celebrating all ethnicities and cultures represented in our student body through special cultural events as well as the relaunch of Multicultural Day and a cultural family celebration. We also added Advanced African Politics to the humanities curriculum for the 2023-24 school year.
But the work of inclusion and belonging requires more than celebrating cultures and ethnicities, it requires us to give voice and a platform to the lived experiences of each member of the RE community. Last year, we held a listening session of our Black female faculty to gain a deeper understanding of their experiences at RE. We look forward to hosting a similar session next quarter with our LGBTQIA+ faculty. We also conducted a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis that surveyed all RE administrators and faculty to understand how best to utilize the resources available to serve our stakeholders. In the coming year, we are also rolling out an alumni-student mentorship program in an effort to provide students with an additional resource to help manage their academic and social experiences.
Notwithstanding these efforts, we cannot celebrate or give voice to people who are not there. We continue in our intentional recruitment of diverse educators and scholars to add to the RE community. This year the middle school welcomed one of the most diverse classes of student achievers in the history of the institution. Our Teaching Fellowship program is in its second year and continues to add young educators to our faculty. We also rolled out a Cultural Identification Questionnaire as a voluntary addendum to our registration materials allowing students and families to better identify themselves.
Understanding that the work of inclusion and belonging has an external facing component that is just as important as the internal, our office was able to significantly increase our county-wide collaboration efforts. Black RE parents were instrumental in hosting the month-long Black History Month celebration that culminated in a festival on both campuses featuring vendors from Black-owned Miami businesses, cultural foods, a Junkanoo band, hair braiders and Black authors. Through our growing relationships with local community-based organizations, this summer we also opened the Broad REACH Pool to the free summer reading program at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, the free summer program at Frances S. Tucker Elementary, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade and Breakthrough Miami.
The Office of Inclusion and Community Engagement is undeterred in the work we do for our school. The 2023-24 school year marks our third year, and we cannot wait to unveil more plans to celebrate, listen to, educate and collaborate in new, creative ways with every member of the RE community and those living in our surrounding communities. Like every faculty member, staff member, administrator and trustee, we continue to evolve and perfect how we educate and inspire our distinguished Third Class of Ransom Everglades students.
To that end, we personally want to congratulate Mrs. Rodriguez on her appointment in June as Head of School! We look forward to our continued work together with Mr. Clark and Dr. King as we forge forward in providing a dynamic, inclusive, rigorous and contemporary education for our nation’s best and brightest.
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.