Longing to Belong: DEIB at Horizon Academy - Horizon Academy

Longing to Belong: DEIB at Horizon Academy

Feb 29, 2024

By Emily Staten

When I accepted to lead the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (D.E.I.B) movement at Horizon Academy in 2022, I did so with self-doubt and uneasiness. I was incredibly conscious of my whiteness and felt quite unqualified for the position. To ease this perception, I announced to the staff that my ultimate dream was for us to cultivate an environment in which my hypothetical child would feel safe, seen, and nurtured. 

Little did I know, I’d become pregnant just a few months later. I am now the mother to a healthy baby boy who is a product of two cultures, African American and White. He will navigate this world longing to belong. Code-switching and feeling pressured by society to alter his true self. We hope to raise him to be proud of his roots and to own his true identity. 

Identity. The students of Horizon Academy enter our doors at various stages of discovering their own identities. Our staff works incredibly hard to acknowledge each student’s full story. These stories may include issues like avoiding being called on in class, memorizing weekly spelling words, or crying at the thought of going to school each day. Simply acknowledging the intricacies in talents, personalities, and humor of our students is crucial. Establishing a trusting bond allows them to break down the tough exterior they’ve built up in academic settings over the years. 

Trust. Students need to be able to build trust with their teachers in order to feel like they belong. Trusting in their teachers and parents helps build students’ confidence, which results in risk-taking, both in social and academic situations. Over time, taking risks allows students to make mistakes and “own” them. The idea of owning their errors is a crucial and drawn-out stage, as many students with dyslexia have always strived to hide their misunderstandings. Once they are able to accept their mistakes, they will soon be more open to receiving and accepting feedback. Finally, students are able to make corrections to their work which, over time, helps rewire the brain. 

Inclusion. Like my biracial son, students with dyslexia code-switch daily and feel the need to alter themselves to blend in with their neurotypical peers. EVERYONE navigates this life to feel fully seen, accepted, and included. Establishing this allows us to commit to being our most pure selves. Loving ourselves first allows us to better empathize and love each other, no matter our race, sexuality, gender identity, learning difference, or expression. 

It’s human nature to strive to fit in, to fit the status quo, to camouflage your quirks so your peers accept you. Horizon Academy students break those societal norms daily, and each are the epitome of model upstanding citizens who demonstrate academic resilience, compassion, and acceptance of others. I am confident that they will inspire a tidal wave of change in this world which so desperately needs it. Go forth, accept what makes you “you”, and accept peers’ stories and backgrounds which might not be your own. The world will be a better place for it. ♥️

Emily Staten  is a Certified Online Orton-Gillingham Interventionist for Horizon Academy

Established in 1999, Horizon Academy empowers students with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities to be effective learners and confident self-advocates.