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Pursuing and Celebrating Diversity

Forming a community that more fully reflects the vision of Romans 15:7 “Therefore, accept one another just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God” requires ongoing work, self-examination, education, lamenting, and repentance. This is no less true for institutions like DC than it is for nations and individuals. When Head of School Dan Steinfield initiated a conversation with Ray Garcia last February to explore questions of racial and socioeconomic diversity and inclusion at DC, both men understood the urgency of change. While they knew there would be no quick fix, they also knew that a schoolwide desire to prioritize making DC a more loving and hospitable place for all, based on a common commitment to being obedient to the Word of God and its principles of reconciliation, restoration, sacrificial love, justice, and unity, would bring progress. 

Garcia, who began as DC’s new Director of Diversity and Inclusion in September, says steady progress will be achieved by meeting goals on a multi-year trajectory. The fact that this trajectory towards progress was already set at DC was one of the reasons Garcia felt it was right to accept the invitation to lead DC in this newly created position. “While there are certainly parts of our past we lament, DC has a strong foundation and history worth celebrating,” Garcia says. “I love what DC stands for—educating the whole child to grow in knowledge and also in their walk with God, for example, as well as its support of local churches.” While he had no illusions about the scope of the undertaking, Garcia knew he would be leading a community ready to begin this work.

THE MAN GOD HAS CALLED

As he looks back, Garcia can see how God has been preparing him for this role. During his 15 years as a local youth pastor, several kids from his youth group were students at DC and Garcia has coached football at the school as well. “I’m also a product of education,” he says. “My mom was an educator.” But something far deeper has uniquely qualified him for the work in which he’s now engaged at DC. “My father was African American, my mother is an assimilation of white ethnicities, and my last name signals my hispanic heritage,” he says. “I’m white enough to feel comfortable walking into a room full of white people, and black enough to feel comfortable walking into a room full of black people. And when I walk into a room full of people speaking Spanish, they assume I understand. But I don’t know Spanish. And yet I don’t feel that I fit in any of those rooms.” Garcia laughs. “All that creates a beautiful mess—and this work is just an extension of my own process.” I want to help DC students express themselves, but they need an inclusive, safe space to do this. They need to see adults who look like them who are teachers, administrators, mentors, and coaches so that they can envision how they can belong.”

Garcia Family

Like many brown boys and girls, Garcia began questioning his racial identity when he was very young. “Where do I fit? How do I belong?” These questions also resonate with Garcia as a father. “I realized my own kids could go to DC and not see themselves reflected in many adult role models here. DC has the ability to have a far reach, he says, but the pieces aren’t yet in place to make that happen”.

Garcia’s primary professional call is as Lead Pastor of Roxborough Church in Philadelphia. He and his wife Michelle also run The Philadelphia Project, a mission that partners with local churches to create transformative service opportunities. “The elders of the church saw this role at DC as an extension of what we do,” Garcia says, “and I have great hope for this season.” The four Garcia children—Isaiah, Nathan, Cadence, and Tommy—fully embrace the life of ministry and the joy that it brings.

THE WORK AHEAD

Garcia likens his work at DC to John the Baptist’s ministry of preparation. “The first piece is helping people to examine their hearts, explore cultural bias, and ask import-ant—and sometimes hard—questions,” he says. “The fact that we have a homogenous staff, for example, doesn’t make us bad, but the question is, have we lamented enough? We have to identify the reasons why we haven’t become diverse and at least lament these—and maybe repent as well.” The second step is one of action. “We need to hire folks who will increase our diversity,” Garcia says, “but we need to hire them into a place that welcomes them. This is Kingdom kind of work. We’re preparing the way for people to lead at the highest levels of our school.” A third piece of the work focuses on the student body. “We’re working on instilling a bit more cultural awareness this year,” Garcia says, “and going forward we’ll be looking more deeply at curricula, chapel, and the spiritual trajectory as well as mentorships and internships.” Although DC’s student body is already one of the most diverse of any private school in the area, the desire is for that to continue to grow. For growth to happen in an authentic way, we must reflect diversity in both racial and socio-economic status. “The horse and the cart come together,” Garcia says, “but we have to have systems in place to sustain students whose families can’t afford a DC education.”

Scholarships and tuition matching won’t be enough. “We need to figure out how to help students from moderate to low-in-come families afford not only tuition, but also full participation in the life of the school.” Garcia cites the example of one student with limited means who had to choose between buying lunch and paying for extra-curricular activities. “She chose to have lunch every other day,” he says. “No student should have to make that choice. We need to have a pool of resources avail-able to sustain and retain these students.” DC faculty and staff agree that choices such as this one should not be choices at all, As disciples of Christ, we must know when a member of the flock is in need and provide as we are able.

A CELEBRATION OF DIVERSITY

John the Baptist prepared the people of God for a seismic cultural and spiritual shift that would upend their expectations of what God was about to do in their midst. As he envisions what DC could look like in a decade or two, Garcia emphasizes how solid this groundwork being laid now needs to be. “These big changes will affect the culture of DC,” he says. “If they don’t, we’ll only have become assimilated, not diversified.”

Being part of a diverse and inclusive community is integral to the DC Promise—to students receiving an innovative and exemplary education rooted in Christ so that they are prepared for a life of impact in the diverse and multicultural world God created.

“In the national landscape today we can see the dangers of not doing this work,” Garcia says. “We know what happens when we live in isolation from one another, but younger generations don’t know what it is to live in a world that’s not connected. Technology has given us access to world cultures, and we need to create space to celebrate our global connectedness.” In time, with faithful hard work and prayer and God’s guidance, that celebration at DC will look more and more like John’s vision in Revelation 7:9.

For more information on Diversity at Delaware County Christian School, check out our Diversity page at www.dccs.org/about/diversity.

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