This blog originally appeared on act.org.
Prior to becoming the Principal Strategist for Diversity and Inclusion at ACT, I spent more than two decades as a public school educator where I was privileged to work with many people who shaped my outlook on life today. One of the most impactful experiences came at the request of a ninth grade student who decided that I would be his extra support when he would tell his mother he was gay.
So, I invited his mother to the school for a meeting. I remember sitting at a round table with him beside me and his mother across from us. I remember asking everyone to take a deep breath because in the room, there was love, support and acceptance. He exhaled and said, “Mom, I’m gay.” She immediately stood up, moved her chair next to his and hugged him. They embraced. He cried. She cried. We cried . . . together.
In that experience, my student was able to present his complete “self” and in turn, has had a very successful high school and post-secondary career.
According to GLSEN’s 2017 School Climate Survey, 96.7% of the LGBTQ students surveyed could identify at least one staff member supportive of LGBTQ students at their school, 61% could identify 6 and only 38% could identify 11 or more supportive staff. When compared to LGBTQ students with no supportive staff, these students were less likely to feel unsafe because of their gender expression, less likely to miss school because they felt unsafe, had higher grade point averages, were more likely to pursue post-secondary education and felt a greater belonging to their school community.
At ACT, our mission is to help people achieve education and workplace success. We realize that my student’s experience is not the experience of every person in similar circumstances. This is why we have become intentional about building an inclusive environment internally in which we create learning and development opportunities for all team members to find membership, meaning and a sense of belonging in the ACT community.
How We Do The Work of Diversity and Inclusion at ACT:
A culture of diversity and inclusion in the workplace doesn’t just happen. We must work every day to see that our guiding principles are realized.
- Holistic: We value the unique traits and skills to appreciate and nurture the whole person, the process, and the whole community. We reflect this in all that we do.
- Inclusive: We create learning and development opportunities for all team members to find membership, meaning, and a sense of belonging in the ACT community. We connect with stakeholders in a way that reinforces their membership and creates meaning in their lives.
- Transformational: We make space for change and to lead, learn, and grow together. We empower each other.
Beyond our walls, we connect with stakeholders in a way that reinforces their membership and creates meaning in their lives. We celebrate diversity and inclusion throughout the year, and stand with the LGBTQ community as an ally. For us, this includes listening to the stories of LGBTQ people, learning about the obstacles they face, supporting their human right to be who they are, as well as celebrating their contributions to ACT’s workplace. Additionally, and for the second year in a row, ACT has designated June 10-15th as ACT Pride Week, and has sponsored activities in Iowa City, where our national headquarters is located. ACT team members will participate in a few ACT-led activities throughout the week and end by volunteering at the local Iowa City Pride parade and festival. I encourage everyone to join in on the festivities or Pride events in their local communities throughout the month of June. It is a way to support each other, and in the wise words of Iowa City Pride “a way to express and celebrate diverse perspectives, emphasizing acceptance of all individuals.”