Global poverty and income inequality: Exploring the 2019-2020 Head of School Symposium

Tyler Watts, Staff Writer

Prior to his departure from LFA, Dr. John Strudwick selected the Head of School Symposium
topic for this 2019-2020 school year. The subject of Inequality and Global Poverty is greatly
prevalent to the issues of class and status, education, healthcare, and opportunity (to name a
few) that impact the communities surrounding LFA and the lives of those within our community.
This subject is arguably one of the most pressing HOSS topics in recent years as it addresses
realities we all face. Given the gravity of the topic, it was a shock to many to learn that there will
not be a Head of School Symposium Day reflecting on this topic.
In the past, Head of School Symposium Day was a day either in regular classes that covered
a lesson connected to the topic, or a day in which people learned in mini class rotations that
taught about specialized aspects of the subject. This year there isn’t such a day for two primary
reasons— the topic can be emotionally heavy to focus on for an entire day, and the topic is so
objectively significant that it wouldn’t do justice to focus on it for a day and then store the issue
away.
“I thought this was a tough topic to spend an entire 6-7 hour day on, it could be draining as
it’s not very uplifting… some may even tune out this discussion if continued for the length of a
school day,” said Mr. Vaughn, who is part of the Head of School Symposium Committee this
year. The committee is also comprised of Mr. Chris Tennyson, Mr. Jose De Jesus, Mrs. Jaclyn
Leib, Mr. Jamal English Mrs. Erin English, and Mr. Matt Nink.
“At the same time,” Vaughn continued, “what we decided to do was team up with
Multicultural Day and Service Day and have more of a collaborative experience. Service day
would have service more geared toward the topic. We thought about doing something a little bit
different or new, which at large I think some kids may tune out, this way we hopefully get the
best of both worlds.”
Community, one of the four pillars of LFA, is presented in the continuous creation of student
driven service projects, and being able to connect giving back with the concepts of poverty and
inequity is an ingenious marriage of the lessons to be learned through both. The Food and Story
Drive, a sophomore seminar project spearheaded by Kelly Lombardo and Andrew Zengler
encouraged the community to contribute several non-perishables to the North Chicago
Community Partners Family Care Closet. The food desert of North Chicago often faces a
decrease in available resources following the bounty of food provided during the preceding
holiday season. The great participation in food donation was successful in contributing nearly
510 pounds of food. The story drive was the aspect of the project with more of an impact on
campus, as members of the community shared about their interactions with poverty and
inequity.
The Food and Story Drive was a project partnered with the Stuart Center, and the story
share event they hosted on Monday February 19, 2020 was an evening to gather and hear
submissions from the drive read aloud or to speak from the heart with personal anecdotes about
family experiences and observations of society.
“It’s challenging to successfully talk about this topic in a format other than stories, because
then it becomes statistics or numbers on a graph and it’s easier to stay shielded from it,” said
Nink. It’s easy to miss the humanity that we are all living through. Stories are the best way to
handle the nuances of this topic.”

Listening to and picking up on the ways in which poverty and inequality impact the people
that surround us is a more resounding lesson to learn in comparison to disconnected lectures or
abstract figures.
“Poverty is not the state of being extremely poor or not having a lot of material items. Poverty
transcends social, economic, and political elements so it can’t just mean being poor. Poverty is
a mindset, a mindset that one can’t help but snap into when facing difficulty.” This is an excerpt
from Story #33, an anonymous perspective on what the Head of School Symposium topic
meant to them in relation to their own interactions with poverty. Other shared stories had
themes of happiness in the face of adversity, lessons taught by immigrant parents and
grandparents, and gratitude for recognized privilege among many others.
Fostering empathy and compassion is the ultimate goal for this topic. Awareness of each
other’s differences in such a diverse setting as LFA will behoove each community membering in
making this school even more supportive, welcoming, and close-knit. Mrs. English attested to
the potential positive outcome of building a more empathetic community as she said, “It allows
for deeper connection and it allows us to really hear each other, to see each other, and to allow
us to belong here in a way that’s going to make us all the richer.”