Pictured from left: Ryann DiNatale, Matt Campbell, and Katie Woll. (Photo provided)
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Medford, NJ – Shawnee High School’s BRIDGES program was recently showcased at the New Jersey Department of Education’s third annual Statewide Equity Conference in a presentation entitled “Building BRIDGES to Connect Diverse Students and Staff.”
Shawnee Principal Matt Campbell, Assistant Principal Ryann DiNatale and Social Studies Teacher Katie Woll led the virtual presentation about BRIDGES, which is a program designed to build a school culture of belonging where every student and staff member is treated with dignity and proudly promotes a place that celebrates diversity.
The program’s main goal is to educate all students and staff on the importance of recognizing the differences that everyone embodies, while finding ways to build connections with one another using the acronym itself: Be kind, Respect different opinions, Include others, Develop trust and relationships, Get to common ground, and Empower others at Shawnee High School.
“Having the opportunity to present at this conference is a way to showcase some of the positive steps our school has taken, and continues to progress with, in making sure equity, diversity and inclusion remain a critical component to achieve the excellent educational experience we strive for at Shawnee High School,” said Social Studies Teacher Katie Woll, one of the program’s founding members. “We are hoping to inspire and engage other educators and administrators to join us in these conversations surrounding equity and create a wider base of support and resources across the state.”
BRIDGES officially began its practices in the fall of 2019 after four of its founding members completed a Kean University post-baccalaureate program where they earned a certificate in Holocaust Studies and Reducing Prejudice in the spring of 2019.
BRIDGES then began coordinating with administration on restorative justice practices and began teaming up with Shawnee’s Anti-Defamation League student organizations to create PSAs and school-wide activities for students and staff to engage in surrounding diversity and inclusion.
Last year, BRIDGES expanded into providing Professional Development sessions for Shawnee’s staff as well.
The Lenape Regional High School District’s four high schools – Lenape, Shawnee, Cherokee, and Seneca – as well as the Sequoia Alternative Program, educate approximately 6,850 students from eight communities in Burlington County.
The communities served include Evesham, Medford, Medford Lakes, Mount Laurel, Shamong, Southampton, Tabernacle, and Woodland.
The Lenape Regional District is among the highest-achieving districts in the state, with an average graduation rate of 97.4% and an average combined SAT score of 1139.