Coverage Areas:  National |  South Carolina |  Aiken |  Beaufort |  Charleston |  Columbia |  Greenville |  Myrtle Beach |  Rock Hill
Menu

Diversity, sensitivity program targets S.C. schools

By Sheila Ojendyk

GREER — Diversity encompasses not only race and ethnicity but also gender, age, disability, and family background. Kathleen Merritt, director of the Office of Ethnic Ministries, says the goal of her office is to “make church more welcoming to all people regardless of background.”

Merritt said that changing prejudicial attitudes must begin with children. Schools cannot change what parents teach their children. Schools can only teach children to make positive choices in life.

Bishop Robert J. Baker commissioned the Office of Ethnic Ministries to develop a diversity awareness and sensitivity program for the Catholic schools and appointed a team consisting of Merritt; Margaret Adams, Ph.D., director of Catholic Schools; and George L. Jones, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist on the faculty at Clemson University.

The team developed a three-year, three-step plan beginning with a survey of the diversity climate in S.C. Catholic schools. Surveys were sent to every Catholic school in the diocese. Every adult employee was surveyed; the response rate was 88 percent.

The survey comprised eight questions, four of which were targeted as areas needing improvement.

To the statement, “If my school is to remain an excellent institution, it must recruit and retain more diverse faculty,” approximately 61 percent of respondents either disagreed or were neutral.

“How often do your social interactions include colleagues with different racial ethnic backgrounds?” This question revealed that approximately 52 percent of school faculty have little or no social contact with people from other ethnic or racial backgrounds outside of their jobs.

Only 20 percent of respondents felt minority teachers were well-represented in their school. Approximately 40 percent felt their schools did a good job highlighting contributions by minorities.

The second step of the three-year plan is a centralized, ongoing training program on diversity awareness and sensitivity for teachers. The last step will provide training and resources for the schools to use at the classroom level.

Merritt said that some schools already have diversity awareness activities on an individual basis. She commended students at Greenville’s St. Joseph High School for their stories illustrating diversity for younger children.

Teens are getting involved, too. Dwight Heyward, Ta’Nisha Holmes, and Lauren Waring of St. Patrick Church in Charleston designed a diversity awareness workshop based on their life experiences. Their presentation examined differences in communication between cultures and ways to reduce tension and improve relationships between racial and ethnic groups. The three first presented their workshop to the youth group at Christ Our King in Mt. Pleasant and then to teens attending the diocesan Senior High Youth Conference.

The Office of Ethnic Ministries has a number of resources, including age-appropriate videos for children and books available for checkout. For more information, contact Kathleen Merritt at (864) 234-9009 ext. 121.






  • Diocesan Events Calendar
    View All Events
    Nov 17 Diocese of Charleston Native American Catholic Heritage Celebration
    From the Calendar of Native American Ministry
    Nov 18 Vietnamese Martyrs Celebration
    From the Calendar of Vietnamese Ministry
    Dec 1 Black Catholics Heritage Celebration
    From the Calendar of African American Ministry
    Dec 15 Simbang Gabi for Filipino Catholics
    From the Calendar of Filipino Ministry
    Dec 25 Diocesan Television Christmas Special Fox 21
    From the Calendar of Ethnic Ministries
    Jan 412:00 am Class 2019 Ordination Retreat
    From the Calendar of Diaconate
    Jan 812:00 am Retiro Espiritual de Emmaus
    From the Calendar of Pastoral Juvenil
    Jan 1210:00 am Junta de Equipo Diocesano de Emmaus
    From the Calendar of Pastoral Juvenil
    Feb 911:00 am Ordination of Permanent Deacons
    From the Calendar of Diaconate