An Update on Shipley’s Affinity Group Efforts

Sheri Rider Jobe
The Shipley School’s DEI Strategic Plan goal 3 is to ensure an equitable experience for all members of the community. One initiative of that goal is to create and support affinity spaces for students, colleagues, families, and alumni. Affinity spaces speak to the efforts of not just ensuring equitable experiences, but also creating experiences that foster belonging in our community. 

The term affinity group refers to a gathering of people who share a particular and similar identity. As we took on establishing affinity groups in our Shipley community this year, we first hosted several family affinity group gatherings in the fall. We then continued our Faculty of Color affinity group gatherings and began a LGBTQIA+ Faculty Affinity group. 

At this time, there are several affinity and alliance groups in the Upper School, such as the Black Student Union, the Asian Student Alliance, the Jewish Heritage group, and the International Student affinity group. This spring we will add an Upper School LGBTQIA+ affinity group and Multiracial Affinity Group. 

In the Middle School this past winter, we began affinity group gatherings for the following; LGBTQ+, Black and African Heritage, Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage, and Transracial Adoptees. We are planning to host affinity spaces for our younger learners in the Lower School next.

This has been an incredibly exciting progress as we move towards our goal of ensuring equitable experiences for our community members. Affinity groups are a resource schools provide to nurture a sense of belonging and identity development. Their purpose is to make schools better and safer places where every student feels seen and heard. 

Affinity spaces provide a sense of belonging like that in which we feel when we are “at home” and at ease in a particular space.
Affinity spaces provide an opportunity to thrive in an environment that evokes feelings around surviving, or the stress of not fitting in or belonging. 

Affinity spaces provide learning opportunities for identity development. 

Affinity spaces provide community that strengthens one’s participation in the larger community in which this work takes place. 

Affinity spaces provide a respite for some and a refuge for others. 

Affinity spaces provide space and time to be seen and heard - and as a Black woman and a Black educator that is the difference between surviving and thriving. It’s vital. It’s everything!
The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.