Mark Nepper, a high school English teacher at West High School in Madison, believes we are better when we get to know each other. In an attempt to see more of their school, Nepper and co-advisor, Lindsey Tyser, work with students in the Diversity Alliance Club. The club, made up of about 25 students, works to recognize the diversity at West and what that diversity brings to the school.
When the club formed in 2003, they raised money to purchase flags that represented all students’ ethnicities. “Once we had the flags, we had to explain why the flags were here. Then, the program evolved to All Nations Day,” Nepper says. All year, Diversity Alliance Club students work to produce an All Nations Day performance, where student populations at West are celebrated.
“We hear from teachers that it’s their favorite day of the school year because it shines a spotlight on how broad our diversity is. Students love it because they get to see different student groups in different ways,” Nepper says. The performance culminates with a parade of the flags, where students cheer and whistle as their flags are represented.
The Diversity Alliance Club also has a broader mission, beyond the walls of West High School. Each year, participating seniors establish a focus for the club, leading the way on something they want to try, like raising money to send books, food, and other needed items to schools in different countries. The club enjoys having a partnership with a middle school in Honduras, and sends them postcards and videos from the All Nations Day performance.
To Nepper, the work of the Diversity Alliance Club shines a light on the “hidden gems” at West, helping students experience a more extensive view of their school, outside of isolated friend groups.
“It is work I find valuable,” he says. “As we focus on the idea of celebrating diversity, it makes us stronger as a school. We look at the beauty and strength that students bring and it makes our school a better place.”