Affinity Groups at Winsor
“We try to teach girls how important it is to actively and positively define yourself and how risky it is to allow others to define who you are, what your ability is, how much you are worth, or what you believe.”
–Julian Braxton, Director of Community and Multicultural Affairs
Currently, we have three affinity group programs at Winsor specifically designed to create a space for students who identify as part of an underrepresented group at Winsor experience being in a numerical majority. Currently, we have three affinity groups at Winsor. SISTERS is an affinity group for students who identify as Black, African Heritage, Afro-Caribbean Heritage, Cape Verdean, and African American. SOMOS is an affinity group for Latina Heritage and Hispanic Heritage students, AsIAm is an affinity group for students of Asian descent including the Indian subcontinent. Multiracial students are welcomed and encouraged to participate in the affinity group of their choice. In the Lower School, SISTERS and SOMOS meet as one group. The affinity groups provide an opportunity for girls who want to connect positively to their own ethnic/cultural identity. Attendance is completely voluntary. Students often talk about how their participation in affinity groups has been key to their identity development.
The program goals are to:
- Help students develop language to discuss issues that affect their sense of self and racial identity
- Encourage the students to be full, connected participants in the Winsor community
- Nurture girls’ leadership and voice
- Reinforce the high academic expectations that parents set in the home
- Support efforts of parents as they guide students on paths to excellence
- Develop girls’ capacity to mentor each other
- Teach students how to find resources to deal with racial issues
- What is an affinity group? What is its purpose?
- How does an affinity group fit with the mission of being an inclusive community?
- If we are trying to build connections between girls of different races/ethnicities, why are we separating them?
- I describe myself as a “person of color,” but the SISTERS , SOMOS, AsIAm and don’t fit me precisely; may I join these affinity groups?
- Though I could attend, I’m not interested in joining SISTERS, SOMOS, or AsIAm Is that okay?
- Where can I go if I want to talk further?
An affinity group is a group of people that shares a common experience. The purpose of an affinity group is to strengthen the community by increasing the ways a person can find connection, support, and voice at Winsor starting with smaller groups of people who want to connect on specific areas of experience or identity. Currently, we have three affinity groups at Winsor. SISTERS is an affinity group for students who identify as Black, African Heritage, Afro-Caribbean Heritage, Cape Verdean, and African American. SOMOS is an affinity group for Latina Heritage and Hispanic Heritage students, AsIAm is an affinity group for students of Asian descent including the Indian subcontinent. Multiracial students are welcomed and encouraged to participate in the affinity group of their choice. In the Lower School, SISTERS and SOMOS meet as one group.
As stated in Winsor’s Principles of Diversity, “The school affirms, teaches, and values a belief in the dignity and humanity of every person and a commitment to understanding individual and group differences.” Winsor’s affinity groups support this important principle. Affinity groups can be an important step toward inclusion in that the group allows students who might otherwise suppress their identities to feel proud and confident; the affinity group provides a platform from which girls who are culturally different from the majority can confidently be themselves and not feel pressured to conform. (It is important to note that there are girls at Winsor who are culturally different from the majority and feel joy, comfort and pride without an affinity group.) SISTERS, SOMOS, and AsIAm provide an opportunity for those families and girls who want it to connect positively to their own ethnic/cultural identity.
Building authentic relationships with people from all backgrounds is critically important at Winsor, and separation can at first seem counter to our goals as a school. It is important to remember that Winsor girls live and learn in mixed groups for the vast majority of their time at school each day; a 30-minute affinity group meeting each week during lunch (and on selected recess periods in the Lower School) helps some girls feel more connected, visible, and included. We want everyone to trust and understand that we are enhancing, not thwarting, our efforts to build a joyous and multicultural community.