“Sharing personal stories is something we do all the time at St. Albans—in chapel, the classroom and the refectory,” noted DEI Director Kristin Elliott at this week’s Upper School assembly, where she and Upper School DEI Program Coordinator Kyle Money revealed the school’s theme of the year. The Power of Personal Stories—the focus for the entire school this year—“will allow us to lean in more deeply,” said Elliott.
To start the conversation, Elliott and Money invited three staff members who mostly work behind the scenes to share compelling stories from their past.
Lan Bui, associate director of financial planning and analysis, talked about traveling, at age 15, on a crowded boat lacking food and supplies from Vietnam to Malaysia, en route to America. “I left everything I knew and loved behind to begin a completely unknown life in America,” said Bui. “That is my story.”
Auxiliary Manager Devin O’Donnell recalled overcoming social anxiety to put herself forward for a lead role in a third-grade play, where she discovered a love of performing and making people laugh. “If you never push yourself to discover your own potential and to defy the expectations that others—and even you—may have, you’ll never discover what you are truly passionate about,” O’Donnell explained.
Sodexo Operations Manager Bockarie Silla described attending a private boys boarding school in Sierra Leone, where he was ruthlessly teased for having a stutter. “It got so bad that I shut down completely, for fear that I would be laughed at or teased. For years, I could not speak to strangers or in public,” he recalled. When Silla arrived at St. Albans 13 years ago, he discovered many similarities between our campus and his alma mater—but he didn’t witness the same kind of teasing. “I learned that this place was different from the all-boys school that I attended back home—different in the sense that people here did not tease boys like me ... Because of the power of inclusion and belonging [here], everyone has the chance to reach their potential.” Silla encouraged boys to continue to strive to create a culture of inclusion and diversity.
A former Lower School teacher Kyle Money who returned this fall to teach English and work on DEI programming, concluded the assembly by recalling his family being uprooted by Hurricane Katrina. According to Money, the experience deepened his awareness of how natural tragedies—
whether hurricanes or covid—can rip families apart, separating students from parents, friends, and school. “You’ve all been through things that make you who you are,” Money reminded the students. “And there’s a story to tell there. So don’t be afraid to share that.”