Good morning everyone. Thank you for allowing me a few minutes to say hello, frame Allyship Week and why it means so much to me.
First of all, I’m Ms. Miyashima. Most of you know me, and if you don’t, hello! Some of you know me as a PE, Wellness or Weights teacher, some know me as a College Counselor, you might know me as a Soccer Coach, and you all definitely know that I’m an Alumni (I can’t wait for Class XII to join me and acquire the “alumni” title in a month).
I know our school well and loved it as a student; I always felt a sense of belonging. For me, “sense of belonging” refers to each individual on campus feeling like they are embraced for who they are authentically. Inclusion is the action behind that. I’d like to share a bit about how inclusion has manifested into one of my personal core values.
My mother, Teru, was an active community member and parent here at Waterford. She loved our school and every aspect of it. She had a few rules – yes rules – around inclusion when raising us, particularly in school spaces. She was staunch and loving, whimsical and idealistic yet practical, and above all, she was deeply compassionate and strict. Now, I’m not giving a lesson on the proper way to parent or “how to be raised an ally,” but I do want to provide context and framing for how my mindset was shaped early on to view, and act towards, inclusion. To do this, I need to share a bit about her childhood.
My mother was an only child of a single mother. Her mom was a professional dancer. This resulted in my mom growing up in a variety of COUNTRIES from ages 0 – 18. Born in Georgia, she moved where her mom’s dance career took her. She grew up in Australia, New York City, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles, among other locations. There are two big aspects to her childhood and travel experiences that defined how she learned to practice inclusion.
The first might be obvious. She was exposed to SO many different countries, cultures, ethnic groups, races and types of people that she inherently embraced learning about others, those different from her, and embracing that process. She became comfortable adjusting her ways of thinking, being respectful of different social and cultural norms, and she found great joy in trying new things, hearing new perspectives, and seeking out diversity in her own life.
The second aspect of how her childhood influenced her parental rules on inclusion aren’t as exciting. Moving frequently, especially without siblings, made things difficult in new environments. Without adequate time to settle into her new neighborhood or school, she relied on the kindness and inclusion of others to help her make friends and community quickly. She knew what it felt like to be intimidated by kids sitting in their own groups during lunch, and her wandering, yearning for conversation but not wanting to be a bother. She knew the challenges of initiating conversation and having to be the one to put in extra effort to make some friends. Above all, she knew what it felt like to be picked on for being deemed “different,” despite her bringing her true and authentic self to school and various spaces.
Fast forward to my childhood and what I might call a framework of…stringent inclusivity. Because of her upbringing, and later, her becoming a professional dancer herself and deeply connecting with a vibrant dance community of diverse individuals, many whom were also a part of the LGBTQ+ community, she did not tolerate from us, her offspring, any negativity or discrimination towards anyone based off of an identity trait. For example, we were taught early that if we ever used a derogatory word towards anyone, we were grounded. BAD. Like no phone, no tv, no friends, no computer, no socializing for 2 weeks, bad.
Additionally, other “rules” that we were expected to follow included conversational skills. If we saw someone sitting alone, or playing or eating lunch alone, we were to go up to them, ask if we could sit with them, and initiate conversation. She would practice conversations with us at home and embed rules for such conversations. These expectations included “…if someone asks you a question, ask one back. Practice eye contact. If conversation dies down, ask about their favorite foods, favorite classes, favorite animals, and why.” She emphasized that no one should ever have to feel alone, and if we had the power to help someone feel a sense of community or connection, it was our duty as fellow humans to do that, despite any differences in who we are…and not only despite differences. We were taught – and, really, MANDATED – to embrace differences. This is what I loved about her framework. I didn’t get to the point of being grounded, because I learned not to think of differences as negative. Not one of us is the same, and that is awesome; that makes us great in our own authentic ways.
I know this sense of deep care is present here at Waterford. I thank you for participating in our discussions this week around allyship. But as we return to “normalcy” among and after a time where many of us have experienced loneliness or perhaps feeling disconnected, let’s *takes a deep breath* reset, and think about the culture of inclusion and belonging that we want Waterford to be. Culture takes a collective effort. We can’t fully succeed without collaboration, cooperation, care and joint efforts towards making others feel seen, heard, affirmed, valued, and included, despite our differences. To create a culture of inclusion, it takes time and thoughtfulness, even when it feels challenging. Our steps don’t have to be groundbreaking. They can be driven by our Mission that asks us to live lives of meaning and purpose. Our steps can be guided by our five Core Values: Integrity, Excellence, Curiosity, Responsibility and Caring. Our efforts start with practicing small, consistent efforts of inclusion over a period of time, like asking how someone is doing if they are sitting alone.
I’ll leave you with two quotes that my mother has left with me and asked me to practice daily: “Small acts of kindness with great, great love,” which was taken from a service trip here during my time here at Waterford, and “Respect everyone, no matter what your opinion is,” which she actually asked me to practice during a time when there was a political election happening, when I was a student here too!
I know that can feel hard at times. But the Waterford “why” behind Caring is, “We learn best in a caring environment, where respect and inclusion make possible the deepest forms of intellectual, emotional, and character growth.” Thank you for listening.
Kimi Miyashima is the Director of Inclusion & Belonging, soccer coach, and long-time community member at Waterford. Her family moved to Utah from Los Angeles after learning about Waterford and she has been invested in the school ever since. Upon graduating from Waterford, Kimi headed back to California and earned her B.A. from Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, where she majored in Theatre Arts and minored in Film Studies and Peace & Conflict Studies. While at LMU, Kimi played 4 years of Division I soccer for the Lions. Kimi later returned to Utah from LA to pursue a career in Education and spend more time with her family. She received her M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Policy from the University of Utah. Kimi loves anything related to sports, enjoys overgrowing her garden with her Nisei grandma, and is passionate about adopting senior dogs.
October 13, 2022
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