The Conestoga community virtually gathered on September 17 for a panel discussion on inclusivity that focused on building bridges of communication across gender, ethnicity, race and geography in an effort to develop a stronger college community.
Hosted by Student Engagement, the inclusivity panel featured representatives from local community partners and Conestoga services.
Hosted by the Student Engagement team, the event -- Come as you are, were and want to be -- was offered as part of transition activities geared towards first-year students as they navigate resources and supports available through the college and community. The panel featured representatives from local partners OK2BME, the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region and the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre, as well as members of Conestoga’s counselling services and the college’s official student association, Conestoga Students Inc.
“We want students at Conestoga to feel that they are welcome just as they are,” said Student Engagement programmer Jermal Jones as he started the discussion. “We have a lot of supports and people who are here to help you find spaces and others to connect with to feel like you are at home.”
The conversation centred around views of inclusion, experiences and reflecting on what it takes to strive towards an inclusive and equitable environment. Panelists stressed the importance of listening to others to fully understand barriers as a way of actively working to help dismantle them, and that continuous learning is a big part of the journey.
“I have made a lot of mistakes - some were made with my head, and a lot were made with my heart,” said therapeutic counsellor and OK2BME coordinator Washington Silk. “Through all of those mistakes, I had to be open to learning and growing and hearing difficult things but also experiencing really powerful and wonderful a-ha moments when I connected the dots. And that happened from all the things we talked about today, from listening to other people’s experience and understanding your privilege and where it comes from, and using the tools that you have to make the world a better place for everybody.”
Student Engagement, in partnership with local community organizations, will host other workshops and events throughout the fall term focused on diversity and inclusivity, including the trans allyship workshop and the young men leading change program. Students interested in participating are encouraged to visit the Co-curricular Portal for more information.
Conestoga’s Student Engagement team meets the needs of students through innovative programming designed to achieve goals with learning outcomes-based initiatives, including the Co-curricular Record, Orientation, Diversity and Inclusion, the Connect Leadership Workshop Series, and various student volunteer and committee opportunities.