Bridging the Gap between Catlin Gabel and De La Salle

by Trevor Tompkins '14

Me rapping in De La Salle's cafeteria during an open mic session. (Photo: Casey Mills)

This reporter rapping in De La Salle’s cafeteria during an open mic session. (Photo: Casey Mills)

After visiting De La Salle North Catholic and shadowing a student for a day, I observed numerous cultural aspects of the school that were intriguing. A group of eight Catlin Gabel students were invited to the school to enjoy the high school’s Black History Month assembly and to further strengthen the relationship between our two schools.

It only took one class period at De La Salle for me to notice significant differences between the two schools. In a precalculus class, I immediately noticed that De La Salle’s class structure differs tremendously from the Catlin Gabel structure I am accustomed to. At the beginning and end of class the teacher had students read flashcards aloud that contained various fundamental truths. The messages on these cards expressed values of hard work, dedication, inclusivity, and humility. I found this De La Salle custom to be very surprising and beneficial to students.

During every math class the students received lessons in core values in addition to mathematics. Catlin Gabel could potentially benefit from implementing something similar to this custom, because the average Catlin Gabel math class does not teach many core values or real-life lessons. These lessons seemed more necessary to teach at De La Salle because kids could be found sleeping, goofing off, and exhibiting disruptive behavior throughout the class period.

Next came De La Salle’s Black History Month assembly, which featured exquisite performances and included the entire student body. It seemed as though a large group of students were involved with planning the assembly and the school as a whole exhibited a level of cultural unity that Catlin Gabel does not currently match. Even though De La Salle has a primarily black student body, students of other ethnicities were very enthusiastic and involved during the assembly. It felt as though everyone supported the dialogue and was passionate about it.

Despite having plenty of assemblies in the month of February, Catlin Gabel neglected to dedicate any time to Black History Month, to the disappointment of African-American students. From kindergarten to 8th grade, years I spent at a different school, I enjoyed a vast array of cultural celebrations at school covering African history, Hispanic history, and many others. Once I arrived at Catlin Gabel the relevance of cultural celebration and diversity seemed disappointingly low. I recognize that Catlin Gabel is making valiant efforts to broaden the horizon of culture, diversity, and inclusivity within our school, but with the diversity conference only one day a year and minimal emphasis placed on Black History Month, I still think that more work is needed.

De La Salle emphasizes celebrating and educating students of all cultures and ethnicities by supporting student-run assemblies that cover these topics. The school is organizing a student-led Asian/Pacific Islander heritage assembly in May that I hope to attend. I think Catlin Gabel could bring in this philosophy and find inspired students who are willing to lead culture education assemblies in the future. At Catlin Gabel we have students with all kinds of cultural and religious backgrounds who don’t get enough opportunities to share their knowledge. Occasional student-led assemblies focused around specific cultures, religions, and ethnicities could significantly add diversity and inclusivity to a school that lacks those things.

Another unique aspect of De La Salle is how they approach community service. They have a work program that requires every student to perform service on a weekly basis. Each school day a different class is sent to work all day for various organizations that need the help and contribute financially to the operation of the school. As a result of this, De La Salle students only have four school days a week and spend the other day working outside of school. The young man I shadowed said he enjoys the work program and is grateful to be a part of it but wishes that workdays were less frequent.

Here at Catlin Gabel, we have been re-working our own community service requirements recently. I think that we could prosper from possibly adopting a similar strategy to De La Salle’s work program. De La Salle’s service philosophy is very similar to the campus days that Catlin Gabel employs. The only significant difference is at De La Salle they happen every day.

The concept of sending students off campus to serve various organizations is shared between the two schools, but De La Salle practices this much more often. I think Catlin Gabel could make significant progress by inserting more campus days into the school year. We could use De La Salle’s strategy and only send small groups off campus to work at a time. For example, we could intermittently send C&C’s off campus every week to go serve a nonprofit organization for the day. That way every student sees equal service opportunities and the school as a whole does more service for the outside community.

The ultimate goal of the De La Salle visit was to further strengthen the relationship between our unique communities. A few De La Salle students will be visiting Catlin Gabel on April 4. Hopefully in the future both institutions will continue to grow closer together as we look to build intelligent and resourceful students.