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The kids are not all white

By Lisa Brody
News Editor
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03/30/2015 - Each of us, at one time or another, has had to stop and ask who we are and what we stand for. It may occur during a period of self-realization, turmoil, or due to outside influences. It is hopefully an opportunity to reflect and pivot, and see ourselves with fresh eyes and less bias.

Reflection is not reserved just for individuals, but for corporations and institutions as well, and hopefully augers growth and development in previously unforeseen directions. Education is a prime example where change, manifested in racial, religious, ethnic, geographic and socioeconomic diversity, continues to both reflect the community at large, and lead students to where society should be, and is progressively moving.

Private and parochial schools were once the province of privilege, notably white privilege, as whites were the ones who established and sent their children to these educational institutions. Throughout metro Detroit, especially Oakland County, non-public schools opened their doors primarily for those with white skin coloring, economic viability and from Christian backgrounds. Homogeneity within classrooms was not only sought after, but expected. Some Catholic schools grew out of neighborhoods of Polish, Irish or Italian immigrants, but there were few in attendance in those early days who were not part of that demographic group.

Look to your right, look to your left, what did you see? Mirror images of yourself.

"I graduated from Mercy (High School) in '66, and we had no diversity. It was a white, Catholic girls school. It was the height of the baby boomers era. If we had a Protestant girl it was a big deal. Diversity in those days was Irish Catholic, Polish Catholic, Italian Catholic. We didn't even have Hispanics," said Cheryl Kreger, president of Mercy High School in Farmington Hills.

Fast forward to a new era in education and its attendant population, one which reflects the world at large. Today, the private and parochial schools in Oakland County draw well beyond their physical boundaries, encouraging diversity and recognizing that students of all colors, ethnicities and backgrounds benefit from being with one another. Kreger said that today they pride themselves on religious, socioeconomic, racial and geographic diversity, drawing from a 70 mile radius of communities "that produces a diversity that does reflect the world. There's such value to diversity. It's a very rich and abundant way to view the world."

As Sister Bridget Bearss, head of schools at Academy of the Sacred Heart in Bloomfield Hills, noted, "Diversity is part of our mission."

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