Upper School Hosts Diversity Forum

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The Upper School hosted its eighteenth Diversity Forum, an annual event held for local high school students to discuss cultural diversity as it relates to our community and world. The ultimate goal of the event is to provide a venue for student voices and produce globally conscious student leaders. Over 300 students attended the event from various high schools in our area including Westlake High School, Elyria High School, North Ridgeville High School, Oberlin High School, Gilmour Academy, Laurel School, and Western Reserve Academy.

This year’s theme was “Women as Engines of Change in the 21st Century”, addressing the current #metoo movement sweeping our nation. The event featured keynote speaker Nancy Hogshead-Makar, an Olympic gold medal swimmer. Nancy was raped while attending Duke University, a devastating experience that propelled her to further train and make the Olympic swim team in 1984. She eventually became a lawyer and committed her career to advocacy for girls and women, focusing mostly on issues of gender equality in sports.

Nancy has been recognized as one of the most influential advocates in the history of Title IX by Sports Illustrated and was part of the successful effort leading Congress to pass the “Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and SafeSport Authorization Act” in 2018 to help curb the abuse of amateur athletes. She worked for the Women Sports Foundation for almost 30 years and is currently the CEO of the advocacy organization she founded, Champion Women.

As a victim herself, Nancy gave insight into her experience and how she overcame her trauma to lead a successful life, while providing key statistics and definitions related to sexual abuse to inform the audience. She took several questions from the students, helping them to better understand the nuances of sexual assault.

Monica Pepple kicked off the event with a presentation on consent, giving situational examples relatable to teenagers. Students later broke into peer-led discussion groups to discuss and express their opinions on the subject to further raise awareness. Monica is a Legislative Financial Analyst at New York City Council where she works with the Committee on the Justice System and the Committee on Women, managing city initiatives to end domestic violence and sexual assault. Prior to moving to New York, Monica worked with the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati to address systemic causes of gender-based violence and developed prevention programming and community intervention policies for underserved communities.

The Lake Ridge Academy Diversity Forum began in 2001 in response to the acute sense of alienation that our Middle Eastern and South Asian students were experiencing following the events of 9/11. Each year, students from other Lorain and Cuyahoga County schools are invited to join us for the keynote address and then break into smaller group discussions related to the topic throughout the day.