14 min read

Westtown School’s Inaugural Ninth Grade BIPOC Summer Camp

By Jay Farrow ’75 on Feb 18, 2022 4:05:53 PM

Just months before the pandemic, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist Marissa Colston and I had been pondering the need for a more robust and inclusive orientation for our students from underrepresented and underserved communities. We had written and submitted a proposal for funding for such a program from a national diversity and inclusion organization. Unfortunately, along with the closing of schools throughout the United States and world, COVID-19 also abruptly shut down our envisioned orientation program and its funding effort.

With the 2020-2021 school year underway and with more and more students able to attend in-person learning on the Westtown campus, Celeste Payne, Upper School Equity & Inclusion Coordinator, joined Marissa and me in rekindling the aforementioned new orientation initiative.  In light of the difficult experiences of our own current students in distance learning, the three of us felt an even greater sense of urgency to offer an extensive pilot orientation program for at least a small segment of our new Upper School student population prior to the official beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. Marissa, Celeste, and I chose to offer a camp experience to all ninth grade BIPOC students as this target group would give us an ideal number of students new to the Upper School, around 25, for our experimental program. Also, we wanted to have about 5 additional older BIPOC students to serve as mentors at camp.

2 min read


By Jay Farrow ’75 on Jun 3, 2021 10:06:18 AM

As the Dean of Access and Equity and administrator of the Full Access Program, I have the awesome privilege of providing resources or financial assistance to under-resourced students in all divisions of our school —regardless of race or ethnicity— to enable them to fully participate in school programs. When I think about equity and equality, my primary goal in leading the Full Access Program is to ensure that everyone in the program gets what they specifically need to be successful. In doing so, that doesn’t mean that every student in the program will be provided with exactly the same resources or level of financial assistance. Part of my joy in supporting the over 90 Full Access students in the program this school year comes from knowing that by addressing individual rather than group needs, I am connecting with students where they are, and directing funding to where it can do the greatest good.   

4 min read

Motherhood Reimagined.

By Domi Waldron on May 11, 2021 8:24:30 AM

I am what you call a Single Mother by Choice. I chose to intentionally have a baby without a partner using an anonymous donor. I had always been career-driven and at 29 years old, I knew that if I did not have a baby soon, I would forgo the idea altogether. For me, this was both the easiest and most difficult decision I had made in my life. It was easy because I knew I wanted to be a mom and did not need to wait for a partner to make this happen. It was a difficult decision because it would be life-changing and could not be taken lightly. 

2 min read

Learning and Growing in A White Affinity Space

By Ellen Abbott on Apr 21, 2021 10:59:48 AM

In her blog post of June 2, 2020, Marissa Colston, Westtown’s Dean of Diversity of Inclusion, listed “Tools to Help us Heal” after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Colston reached out specifically to White people to do the following: “Continue to educate yourself.  If these recent events are shocking to you and you don’t understand that they are part of an ongoing, predictable pattern of violence against people of color, take the time to continue to educate yourself on the history of systemic racism in this country.”

2 min read

“If You Build It, They Will Come” Creating Spaces Especially For You

By Kelly Yiadom on Apr 8, 2021 3:03:00 PM

“If you build it, they will come,” a popular Field of Dreams movie reference, was a central theme in my upbringing and has remained so in my adulthood. Although this famous quote arose out of a desire for the film’s main character to take a leap of faith in order to revive a bygone era, its essence can certainly apply in a multitude of situations. Never have I understood the importance of “building” something “so they will come” more than I did when I moved to Delaware County, PA. Here, where belonging is insurmountable, a swift realization of my pungent new reality hung above me like a dark cloud. As a Black woman and native New Yorker who was always taught to be bold, bright, and outspoken, I noticed that I was not quite welcome. It was an unspoken “you are not welcome,” but nonetheless an unrelenting truth. Not having a place that is especially for you might be manageable for some. However, my core thrives on connecting with others and community building and is, therefore, a central part of my make-up. 

Topics: ABAR
5 min read

DOING THE WORK: Anti-Racist Teaching and Community Building in the Era of Black Lives Matter

By Mauricio Torres '08 on Mar 9, 2021 6:04:59 PM

I come from an intellectual tradition that sees scholarship as akin to combat. I was trained to see scholarly jousting as the means by which we refine and sharpen ideas. Consequently, as the brutal summer of 2020 unfolded, I channeled my anger, fear, and the viscous existential dread of being an Afro-Latino into a pugilistic fervor. I loaded chapters and articles onto my syllabi like ammunition into a magazine and answered calls to arms all over our new-found digital battlegrounds. Out of this work came both the class and podcast, We Can’t Breathe! [hereafter WCB!], a project designed to speak to and elucidate the landscape of contemporary anti-Blackness. This was a project subtended and made possible by Westtown’s own, always emerging anti-racist commitments. Put simply, WCB! wouldn’t have been possible at any other institution where I’ve worked—and at no other point in time in Westtown’s history. 

Topics: ABAR
2 min read

Why Affinity Spaces Give Me Life

By Marissa Colston on Feb 24, 2021 11:04:54 AM

When I was in middle and high school, I was often the only black student or student of color in the classroom. I lived in Vermont and, at the time, it was the whitest state in the nation. At age 11 I had moved from Philadelphia with my family. I knew that in other regions of the country it was very different racially, but my reality as a pre-teen and teen in Vermont was often isolating as a black person. I was always the only one in the room. When a racist incident would happen towards me, I would feel even more isolated because my friends —who were also white— didn’t understand that what they said or did hurt me. Sometimes I would be in shock and wouldn’t know what to say. Sometimes when I found the courage to confront them my attempts to explain and educate them didn’t always go well. They would explain it away or say that’s not what they meant. They would say things like, “We don’t see you as black,” or “You aren’t like other black people.” This was not only infuriating but also would invalidate my feelings and experiences as a young black woman. I found that more and more that I didn't want to talk with them about race, and could only find solace at home with my parents and younger brothers. In the comfort of my home, I could breathe easier because I didn’t have to explain myself or ask for validation.

Topics: ABAR
3 min read

We Can't Breathe!

By Mauricio Torres '08 on Sep 24, 2020 5:54:00 PM

My phone was blowing up. Push notifications and texts from friends and colleagues were letting me know that the National Guard was in West Chester. I looked up from my phone to see Diego '22, Eli '19, and Jio '18 laying out on the couch in my living room loudly arguing over the ending to the movie Se7en.

Though I have no sanguinous relationship with Diego, Eli, or Jio, they’re part of the family Westtown has given me. Eli and Jio, fellow Harlemites and Harlem Lacrosse alumni who are now at Haverford College, spend their summers with me while they work, study, and get ready for the upcoming lacrosse season. Diego took Peace and Justice with me his freshman year and is the son of Jio’s host parents. Their daughter, Daniela '20 is off to Penn next year, took Latin American Experiences with me this spring, and dates Eli--and hates that she can’t come to the boys' nights. Our summers are spent enjoying our 600 acres, devouring horror movies, and eating as much grilled food as the weather allows. Their visit that night was particularly special as we were trying to recoup some semblance of our usual summertime shenanigans since the county had moved into the yellow phase of the COVID-19 protocol.

The protests catalyzed by the death of George Floyd lay in stark contrast to the fun we had managed to have. Multiple generations of Black and Brown Westonians finding joy in the midst of so much rage and mourning felt like a necessary reprieve and a rearticulation of the mattering of Black lives. However, the uncertainty of why the National Guard had made its way to West Chester pierced through the rowdy mundanity of having the boys over for dinner and a movie. As they piled up dirty dishes and got ready to head out, I was immediately filled with a suffocating, viscous dread: what if they get pulled over?

5 min read

Tools to Help Us Heal and Take Action

By Marissa Colston on Jun 2, 2020 8:59:00 AM

In response to the violence of systemic racism that we have witnessed these past weeks, I want to  offer ways in which all of us can engage in nonviolent action. As a woman of color, I have been re-traumatized by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. I have felt despair and am still working through my own pain and anger at how black and brown lives are not valued or protected. I know I am not alone in these feelings and I want to offer suggestions in ways to heal and take action.
The way in which this kind of violence affects people of color and white people are different and therefore require a different response. Below are suggestions for people of color, for white people, and some that apply to all of us.