Despite being separated by several zip codes, students from suburban St. Genevieve Catholic School (SG) in Flourtown and urban Our Mother of Sorrows/ St. Ignatius Catholic School (OMS/SI) in West Philly recently got the chance to learn the similarities between their transformative Catholic educations.
Through an Immersion in Cultural Diversity grant written by SG Principal Sister Theresa Maugle, SSJ, students from SG and OMS/SI took field trips to their respective schools to learn from each other and to have a great time making new friends and building relationships. The first of the two diversity days took place at the OMS/SI campus in May. The students participated in “getting to know you” sharing times which allowed the children to learn about each other’s likes and dislikes, discuss their lives and where they come from, and compare notes on favorite past-times. Students decorated name tags with their buddies showcasing their unique stories, and they also created a joint art project for display in the OMS/SI classroom. The day wrapped up with a pizza party and time to reflect on the experience. One OMS/SI student said the meeting showed her that she “needs to go out and make new friends that are different from me. My buddy was so nice to me even though we come from different places.”
Once the students got to know each other, they were able to delve into deeper discussions during the second Diversity Day, which took place at the SG campus. The students were excited to see their buddies again and couldn’t stop talking about what they were going to do together. The OMS/SI students attended technology and library classes with their buddies, watched a movie, and continued the diversity discussions. The students had a picnic lunch and even competed in a friendly school vs. school basketball game.
Sister Theresa Maugle, SSJ said the experience is a great lesson for everyone. “[It’s] important for all the children to continue a friendly spirit while learning and respecting another’s diversity,” she explains.
Both SG and OMS/SI schools hope to continue this tradition annually. Students will write to their “pen pals,” and most have exchanged numbers to keep in touch during the time between their next cultural immersion.
In the end, one OMS/SI student summed up their experience saying, “We learned what diversity is and got to make new friends. I learned that we can be nice to each other even though we’re different colors.”