Being the Beacon of Acceptance and Kindness

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A STEM teacher forwarded a reflection piece from a Middle School student recently. The student was grateful she felt at home in a school that had students of many different cultures and ethnicities so she did not feel like an outsider. She felt like she belonged.

What a great feeling to belong. Middle School is one of the most challenging times. Feeling safe to try new ways of thinking and being in a welcoming and accepting community is the goal at STEM. Extending acceptance to new students is one of our cultural hallmarks. Acceptance is the anecdote to judging. Those who judge reveal more about their own limitations to think and feel expansively. Judging is not productive.

May 7th was a day our community could find a personal way to heal through STEMShares. With 43% ethnic diversity and many countries and languages represented, grief and healing takes on even more complexity at STEM.

Honoring individual expressions of grief and giving is one way our diverse community can heal. I heard it many times and continue to grow in my understanding that healing is not linear. Sometimes it feels like it moves in the wrong direction.

I spent May 7th in service to a friend who was just released from the ICU at Swedish Hospital after a freakish accident. She was preparing for a demonstration of Ikebana at the Denver Botanic Gardens and caused a micro tear of an artery in her sinuses when she lost her balance and fell. Not only did I spend the day caring for her, but I learned Swedish and many more local hospitals are at capacity and diverting patients with an unexpected number of mental health admissions. My day of service became a week of service as I spent the weekend and evenings after work assisting her until her release. My time at Swedish gave me new compassion for healthcare providers and the challenging work they perform to save lives while preserving human dignity.

Being part of the diverse STEM community allows each of us to find a way to give back to our community as part of STEMShares and the continued benevolence that comes from an expansive community. We are not a community that judges others. Like our Middle School student who revels in her feeling of being accepted and not feeling like an outsider, we can all stretch a little to be more inclusive and accepting. Our community will continue to grow and be the beacon of acceptance and kindness we all wish it to be.

This week I also had the opportunity to go around to visit with our entire staff to recognize them for their service to STEM. Some of our staff have been here for 10 years, while others just a few months. I am eternally grateful for everyone who is a part of our STEM team. Their commitment this year to our Mission and to our students is inspiring. With COVID restrictions loosening, it was nice to also help spread some cheer with our Cart of Happiness that had treats and drinks for our staff to enjoy.

Wishing you a happy Eid to our families who celebrate this holiday and Happy Armed Forces Day to our military families,

P.J. Eucker PhD
Executive Director

P.S. Below is the reflection from the Middle School student that was shared with me last week.

Personally, middle school is so special for me at STEM because of our amazing teachers, diversity, and the freedom to be ourselves. This may sound like a brag, but the teachers at STEM School Highlands Ranch are nowhere near ordinary. Many of STEM’s engineering, science, and computer science students are taught by professionals from their workforce that opted to teach- to make the world a better place. Furthermore, one of STEM’s most admirable qualities within our student and teacher community is our diversity. Families of every religion, race, culture, and belief in Colorado make their way to STEM each year, and this gives every individual part of our community the chance to self-actualize and be themselves, without the fear of what others think. This is extremely important, especially for teenagers like us. STEM also values closing the workforce gap caused by gender inequality in STEM fields, which is why our school promotes invaluable opportunities, internships, and prepares young women for the real world like no other. STEM doesn’t just teach academics; It teaches problem-solving, independence, innovation, trust, and self-advocating. In addition, I have had incredible memories at STEM. I have always been an introvert, but STEM has been the first place I’ve made real friends that have stood by me through thick and thin. Our school is also filled with the best role models a teenager could ever ask for, especially for young women. The staff and teachers make the school feel like a second home, and each classroom is a haven of fun and support. I could not ask for more from our school. GO SPARTANS!

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