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Equity & Belonging

Diversity Mission Statement

Derryfield believes that a school is strengthened by its diversity. Therefore, we are committed to building and nurturing a diverse and inclusive community with individuals from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. Working together, we strive to provide experiences both in and out of the classroom that will allow students to consider and embrace their own and others' identities and perspectives. This will empower our students on their journey to leading lives of purpose and passion.

Opportunities & Initiatives

List of 6 items.

  • Curriculum Diversity

    Students of all backgrounds benefit from a diverse curriculum because it better prepares them to be citizens and leaders in a multicultural society.  Across Derryfield’s academic programs, from the humanities to the STEM disciplines, our teaching increasingly includes perspectives and discussions of gender, race, and other aspects of equity and belonging. “I think that if we can help kids have these opportunities where they actually get to see life from a perspective that they have no access to, it will allow them to start to be able to ask the questions that need to be asked and to engage in dialogue,” said upper school English teacher Dr. Diane Hotten-Somers.
    In the humanities, those discussions often start with students being able to see themselves in what they read and study. And with a diversity of perspectives presented in literature, they also learn to see things through the eyes of others, which is key to developing understanding and empathy. Diverse authors offer students different lenses through which to view these topics and a shared experience through which they can discuss and examine them.
    English faculty choose from a diverse library of texts to help students explore themes of race, ethnicity, identity, justice, gender norms, and belonging. World cultures courses help students explore nations and people beyond our shores, while others delve into what it means to be an American through the very different experiences of all who call this country home.
    In history, students build a foundation for civic responsibility by understanding the complexities of the past. World Justice topics range from Jim Crow America to the Holocaust. Upper School students explore the history of Asia and Europe, social upheaval, and global issues like environmental sustainability. While studying the past, students also learn how historic injustices continue to inform the world in which we live today. Service projects with new Americans living in Manchester, for example, enable our sixth and eighth graders to experience this firsthand.
    Gender parity is an ongoing priority in the School’s STEM departments where the faculty, including leadership positions, is nearly evenly divided between men and women. Teachers have also been implementing initiatives aimed at attracting more girls to STEM fields where they have been traditionally underrepresented.
    The Science Department has hosted the TechWomen Ambassadors program which invites women working in technology to Derryfield to discuss different paths to careers in STEM. Science Department Chair Mary Ann Watt has conducted a monthly “Open Circuit” forum designed to bring together girls from all grades interested in STEM. And to help inspire our students about possibilities in real-world STEM careers, a group of girls shadowed professionals at a Manchester software company for a day. 
    Preparing our students to be future leaders means teaching them to be anti-discriminatory and receptive to a diverse range of experiences and ideas. In every area of the curriculum, the faculty is addressing these issues to ensure that Derryfield graduates truly represent the Schools’ philosophy that “academic achievement without compassion and concern for others is meaningless.”
  • Enrollment Strategies

    Increasing the number of students of color is important for many reasons. Most importantly, Derryfield will better meet the school’s mission to serve bright, motivated students with better outreach. Secondly, underrepresented students can be lonely and isolated. Also, students are more likely to understand and combat racism and other forms of bias when they have a diverse circle of friends and understand the daily experience of those friends. 
    For many years, Derryfield has implemented marketing plans and admission practices that sought to increase the number of qualified students of color through acceptance, merit aid and financial aid. In 2010, Derryfield was showing about 8% self-reported students of color, and the school was stuck there for a long time. In order to become unstuck, we implemented several strategies that have increased our enrollment of students of color by 13%, reaching 21% self-reported this year. These strategies have included but are not limited to: 
    • Improving the sophistication of our digital outreach and online marketing.
    • Enhancing bus services to allow students from more towns and cities to more readily consider Derryfield’s accessibility. Derryfield now draws students from 51 towns and cities, including Massachusetts and the Seacoast.
    • With the encouragement and support of generous donors, we established two endowed scholarship funds. One fund, awarded to Derryfield from the Malone Foundation, targets underserved gifted and talented students while the other, created by a caring family, targets students from Manchester. 
    As we continue to work to increase the enrollment of students of color, we’re aware of our context as a New Hampshire day school and the need to work even harder as a result. Here are some comparative demographics that were available through the National Association of Independent Schools. The first thing to know is that our state has a tiny population and is the third oldest (median age of citizens) in the country; we only have 136,186 students ages 10-17 in all of New Hampshire. Of those students ages 10-17, 13% self-identify as people of color while for DS that number is 21%. Black students make up 2% for NH and 2% for DS, 4% of NH students identify as multiracial, 4% for DS. Asian students make up 2% of NH’s students and for DS 6% are Asian American and 5% are Chinese in our international program for a total of 11%. LatinX students comprise 5% of NH’s students and 3% at DS. While Derryfield’s racial diversity already meets or surpasses that of many of our students’ hometowns, we must work to improve it.
    We know that equity and diversity are about more than racial identity, and we’re deeply committed to ensuring that the Derryfield community is one of belonging for all students and their families. We are proud that anecdotal evidence tells us Derryfield’s reputation of kindness has encouraged a growing number of families led by LGBTQ+ parents to join this community. For all students, the most significant change in our operating model has been implementing an equitable tuition model, wherein anyone who applies to and is accepted at Derryfield is given a tuition rate based on their unique family’s financial situation. This intentional shift was made to ease access to a Derryfield education for bright, motivated students in our region. This doesn’t mean that we are need-blind. As a young school with a small endowment, Derryfield is highly tuition-dependent. The equitable tuition model, though, communicates access in a more welcoming and inclusive way than the historic approach to financial aid. Launched recently, donors may now designate their annual gift to Derryfield to Equitable Tuition, which is the funding of student access, and to Equity & Belonging, which is funding to promote new and existing equity and inclusion programs.
  • Multicultural Student Union

    Sarah Naje ’23 says she’s an advocate for being your true self while finding a sense of belonging in the Derryfield community. Those are the beliefs that led to her involvement in helping to launch the MSU. “These activities give us the opportunity to give everyone what they deserve: a voice and to be heard,” she said. "Getting involved in these clubs gives you a sense of awareness and different perspectives to look through on all kinds of discussion and issues as well.”
    The new Multicultural Student Union (MSU) is a student-driven initiative that grew out of spirited faculty-student discussions held over the summer on the issues of racial justice, equity, and inclusion. “Several students wanted a safe space for people of color, as well as those interested in understanding and exploring cultural diversity, to talk about issues of concern as well as to celebrate cultural diversity” said Jenny Boesch who with Laurie Byron serves as a faculty advisor to the group.
    Inspired by the strong interest shown among their peers, a core team of students dedicated part of their summer months to developing and refining ideas for the organization, which they introduced to the School during Community Meeting. Jen Pei ‘23's fantastic "This I Believe" speech prepared the ground by reflecting on her experiences growing up in a culture shaped by Disney princesses. Sarah Naje then introduced the MSU and welcomed students who had an interest in the organization.
    The new club is already off to an amazing start. The group hosts regular meetings and is planning a social media site for sharing ideas and hosting informal chat groups. MSU leaders will also be attending a virtual, weeklong conference in December hosted by the NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference. Sarah Naje and the other MSU leaders hope to be forces for change not only at Derryfield but also beyond campus and throughout the community. 
    Ms. Boesch reflected that even before the club was officially formed she was impressed by how much thought these students had already given the issues of racial justice, equity, and inclusion. “They are a passionate but thoughtful group and have understood the importance of honing their message from the beginning,” Ms. Boesch said. “Their hope is to be inclusive and celebratory of cultural diversity while at the same time having a space for honest, frank discussions.”  
    That can be a difficult balance, even for adults! But by recognizing its importance the students of the MSU are well on their way to building an organization that can be a force for advocating change and celebrating multicultural diversity on campus and wherever members of our community represent Derryfield.
  • EQUITY Club

    Many Derryfield students are eager for a venue to explore issues of diversity and social justice, and a vehicle to create real change in the School and beyond. Because of this energy and enthusiasm, Derryfield’s Upper School EQUITY club is enjoying unprecedented success. The club, which expanded the scope of the former Gender Equity (GEQual) Club, has rededicated itself to promoting discourse on intersectional issues, incorporating race, gender, sexuality, religion, able-bodiedness, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and other areas where inequity is a fact of American life.
    “We wanted to become a more inclusive space for all students, and we wanted them to be eager and willing to listen and contribute, even if their experiences were different from other students,” said co-director Ruthie Zolla ’21. “The first step is speaking about the hard and taboo things that generations before us did not discuss.”
    For several years the club has hosted a statewide equity conference; hosting speakers like Eric Barthold of Man Up Open Up, who present ideas that challenge students, families, and other attendees to think critically about how to create a culture of equity in our school community. In one of the very last on-campus events before the COVID-19 imposed shutdown, 2020’s Equity Conference hosted self-advocacy expert and personal coach Skyler McCurine of Le Red Balloon.
    With interest in EQUITY at an all-time high, the club has recently formed a Gender Equity Committee and a Racial Equity Committee and has plans for each group to hold a separate conference on campus.
    Josue Perez ‘23 joined the Racial Equity Committee. “It is very important for me, as a person of color, to talk about issues that affect me a lot,” he explained. “The Racial Equity Conference is also an opportunity for me and other members of the committee to talk about issues, such as racial discrimination, lack of representation, and disadvantages, that affect us, to our classmates.” 
    Senior Ruthie Zolla believes the club will help empower the next wave of Derryfield community activists to put words into action, and implement new policies that further an equitable and inclusive school agenda. For her part Zolla is crafting a clause for the student handbook, defining, explaining, and regulating racist behavior. “That is the legacy I hope to leave so that every student of color feels more protected by our school's constitution, and so that racism is explicitly denounced in our school's values.”
  • Professional Development

    Recognizing that there is more work to be done, Derryfield’s faculty and staff have embraced an equity and inclusion training program that explores issues like implicit bias, equity and organizational change, and culturally responsive hiring. The initiative is a key part of the School’s commitment to building a truly diverse and inclusive community not only in the classroom, but in the cafeteria, on the court, and even beyond the boundaries of campus. 
    “I feel like the faculty has really been increasing their capacity to have these conversations and ask questions about how we are creating a sense of belonging,” said Director of Equity & Belonging Laura Russell. 
    Faculty groups met virtually three different times over the summer to study timely and challenging writings that offered a variety of perspectives on these issues and reflect on their own learning in the area of justice and inclusion. They held open discussions to explore ideas about how those views and philosophies might inform their teaching at Derryfield and aid their understanding of the experiences of people of color at Derryfield.
    When the school year approached, all faculty and staff kicked off the year by attending a daylong workshop led by Liza Talusan, a leader in helping organizations plan and implement strategic change in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and leadership.
    Derryfield also encouraged faculty and staff to attend conferences including the National Diversity Practitioners’ Institute, which helps educators create a framework to aid equity and belonging efforts at their institutions, and implement best practices to achieve real results. The Multicultural Educators Forum (MEF) at Fenn School also welcomed several Derryfield teachers. By coming together as a larger community of independent schools, these committed professionals can help each other learn how best to further multicultural education on a global scale. 
    Dr. Diane Hotten-Somers was just one faculty member who also attended (virtually) equity conferences hosted by ISANNE and AISNE. “These events were really great opportunities to learn about how to facilitate challenging conversations around the political moments that are upon us right now,” she said. The experience shows how valuable lessons learned by collaborating with colleagues can be brought directly back to Derryfield, where they can help build a diverse, just, and inclusive community in which everyone feels a true sense of belonging.
  • Breakthrough Manchester

    Breakthrough Manchester is a program of Derryfield and the second oldest of the 24 Breakthrough program sites in the country. Our Breakthrough students are all Manchester residents. We are currently serving 169 students, 73% of whom identify as students of color. In 2016, we partnered with SNHU, so now this academic enrichment program has expanded from serving students in the middle school years to supporting them meaningfully through grade 12. On Derryfield’s campus, middle school students have their summer and school year educational experiences while SNHU supports them through high school and college enrollment. 

List of 8 news stories.

  • Multicultural Potluck Celebration

    Elaine Loft
    The tables were laden with foods from nineteen countries, and music from different cultures filled the air at the April 16 potluck dinner sponsored by the Derryfield Multicultural Student Union (MSU).
    Read More
  • Equity Club Hosts Waypoint Presentation

    The Derryfield Equity Club hosted Erin Kelly, Waypoint’s Director of Homeless Youth and Young Adult Services, at a lunchtime meeting on March 10 in the Lyceum. The Equity Club strives to provide DS students with a safe and supportive place to explore and discuss various social issues. The goal of the club is to educate the members, and their peers, on inequities in the community, in order to make Derryfield–and the world–a more tolerant and inclusive place....
    Read More
  • International Women's Summit

    Elaine Loft
    Through connections with other academic programs, Derryfield students are able to participate in programs that connect them to students throughout the world who share similar interests. To celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8), Derryfield junior Madison Viger attended a virtual summit that brought together a diverse group of students to learn about various issues women and girls face on a global level....
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  • World Holocaust Remembrance Day at Derryfield

    Elaine Loft
    On a special January 24 Community Meeting, Derryfield observed World Holocaust Remembrance Day. The guest speaker was Eva Berger, the grandmother of a seventh-grade student and the daughter of Holocaust survivors.
    Read More
  • Working Towards a Beloved Community

    Elaine Loft
    On January 18, Derryfield commemorated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day during Community Meeting in a program that included music, a keynote address, and reflections from members of the Derryfield faculty....
    Read More
  • Derryfield's first Malone Scholar at his graduation from Brown University.

    New Student Scholarships

    Derryfield is pleased to announce two new need-based scholarships for applying students. While the current Equitable Tuition program provides reduced tuition to 32% of our families, the new scholarships strengthen the school’s commitment to inclusivity and will allow the school to reach an even broader community....
    Read More
  • Finding Your Blueprint

    Manchester-based social-impact innovator Deo Mwano served as Derryfield’s 2021 Sanborn Speaker for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January. With a broad range of professional expertise, from dance to technology start-ups, his work focuses on education, technology, business, community, and individual development....
    Read More
  • Building on Our Founders' Legacy of Inclusion

    Actively opposing racism and creating a sense of belonging for all have been core parts of Derryfield’s culture since the turbulent days of the 1960s when the School was founded. Many of the Founders were dedicated civil rights activists and some were instrumental in launching Manchester’s chapter of the NAACP....
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List of 1 members.

  • Photo of Laura Russell

    Laura Russell 

    Director of Equity & Belonging

The Derryfield School

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