Our Kids Flourish at a Diversity-by-Design School

Apr 11, 2024 3:32:32 PM


We are three mothers of biracial children. When exploring what K-12 should look like for our kids, we knew that diversity and academic performance needed to be top priorities.

As we looked at the options in our neighborhoods and across our state, we initially thought we would have to choose between a so-called “good school” and a genuinely diverse one—a trap many self-described progressives fall into. We were fortunate to find Blackstone Valley Prep (BVP), a diverse-by-design public charter school in Rhode Island. BVP provides a safe, nurturing, and rigorous public education to children from four racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse communities.

Given the divisive and often toxic discourse surrounding diversity in schools that permeates our daily lives in the news and on social media, BVP’s vision drew us in—providing a college preparatory education in an intentionally diverse, inclusive, and identity-affirming school community, one that celebrates the value of people’s differences and equips all students to engage in authentic, and often challenging, dialogue.

Our kids benefit academically from hearing different viewpoints and exploring topics at a diverse-by-design public school. They have acquired a much-needed-in-our-world disposition to listen and approach others with curiosity and a desire to understand. They build empathy, develop skills for interacting with people from different backgrounds, and learn about the real world, including power dynamics and injustices, in classrooms that offer a structured and safe space.

We’ve seen our children grow into open-minded, adaptable thinkers who are proud of their identities and celebrate and acknowledge their classmates for what they have in common and where they differ.

One of our children realized the benefits of a diverse environment when she discovered that a classmate’s religion differed from hers.

She came home from school excited to talk about her classmate and flawlessly described their religion—what they believed and the different items, symbols, and holidays they celebrated. Her enthusiasm and follow-up questions allowed our entire family to learn more about the religion.

For another one of our children, BVP has taught him empathy and provided valuable insight into how the playing field isn’t level for everyone. He took part in an extracurricular activity with practices held offsite. One of his classmates didn’t have access to a vehicle. Recognizing the hardship of bicycling to and from practice, my son offered to drive them home. It is gratifying to see he has the self-awareness to acknowledge even relatively benign examples of privilege and has the desire to give something he has when there isn’t equal access to opportunity.

Finally, thanks to BVP’s nurturing approach to acknowledging and encouraging differences, our kids feel more comfortable openly celebrating their biracial identities.

They see themselves in their teachers and classmates while also seeing and celebrating classmates whose identities differ. For one of us, seeing the diverse collection of children’s books on display for students to read in the main office, the Progress Pride flag pinned to a teacher’s lanyard, and the Black Lives Matter and Pride merchandise sold at the school’s online store was powerful.

We sought a diverse public school by design because we wanted our children to experience this environment.

As we see how our children engage with one another across differences as a result of learning in a diverse-by-design public school, we cannot help but contrast it with the negativity we see in the news and on social media. To restore the broken fabric of our society, we need our kids and future generations to deeply understand how to approach one another from a place of curiosity, generosity, and respect.

We’ve seen this for our children at BVP, and we believe all children should have the opportunity to experience it in a public school.

With so much needed attention being paid to strengthening public education so that we prepare the next generation to tackle our society’s most pressing and complex issues, we urge those in decision-making roles to think about ways to be more intentional about diversity in our public schools. Our kids’ future, and the future of our country, depends on it.


Lisa Chan-Iannetta, Talia Mark, Christina Wynveen

Lisa Chan-Iannetta is a school psychologist at Quincy Public Schools in Providence County, Rhode Island. Christina Wynveen is the minister for Faith Formation at Newman Congregational Church in Pawtucket. Talia Mark is the Chief Diversity Officer and Head of the People Division at Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island.

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