Center for Leadership

Equity and Inclusion

Exceptional leaders understand the essential value of diversity and inclusion. They surround themselves with people of varying beliefs, backgrounds, and skill sets. Everyone benefits when exposed to a broad base of experiences. St. Luke's strives to deepen students’ understanding of differences in race, ethnicity, gender, ability, religion, sexual orientation, age, and socioeconomic status. We foster empathy and respect for all. The goal is not tolerance of differences, but a celebration of the unique and varied contributions each of us makes to this community.
Please check out our latest blog post, "We See As We Are," from our Director of Equity & Inclusion, Jacqueline Nelson.

Vision for Inclusive Excellence

In May of 2017, St. Luke’s School’s Board of Trustees approved the Vision for Inclusive Excellence, pledging to focus the school’s resources—human and financial—around three key areas: Community, Culture, and Curriculum. The vision affirms that inclusive excellence allows diversity (experience, perspectives, race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, gender or gender expression, ability, etc.), equity, and inclusion to provide the foundation for educational and institutional excellence.

St. Luke's Vision for Inclusive Excellence

Every individual in our community belongs, is valued, and has a stake in the life and purpose of St. Luke’s."

Social Justice Leadership Summit

St. Luke's launched its annual Social Justice Leadership Summit (SJLS) in 2014. Over the years, the summit has grown but the goal remains the same: Bring students and faculty together to explore social identity, privilege, ally work, and social change.    

The summit has been so impactful, the Center for Leadership launched a parent-only version in 2019. Please watch the amazing video below—you'll see students offer gentle encouragement to parents who may be nervous to attend the SJLS, which is beautiful to witness.

Kate Stamoulis '18

I had never been a part of something so meaningful, and I can definitely say that it was indeed life changing. I feel as though I have really found a passion for social justice, and it has opened my eyes to so many things about our world."

Affinity Groups

Creating a culture where every individual feels valued and invested is central to St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve and the confidence to lead. 

By providing opportunities for under-represented community members to be themselves and feel seen, heard connected, Affinity Groups advance St. Luke’s mission and the Center for Leadership’s call to: Find Your Voice. Make a Difference.

Currently, St. Luke’s Affinity Groups include: 

List of 7 items.

  • Asian Affinity Group

    The Asian Affinity Group serves to create a safe space to celebrate our unique cultures and experiences as Asian Americans navigating the world.
  • Black Student Union (BSU)

    The Black Student Union is for all students who wish to celebrate Black culture, history, activities, and food. This organization fosters a strong sense of community for all students regardless of race or ethnicity.
  • Diversity Leadership Council (SDLC)

    Peer educators that work to create a more inclusive community here at St. Luke’s School. These students will work closely with the Office of Inclusive Excellence and Leadership to develop programs such as the Social Justice Leadership Summit, the Connecticut Diversity Leadership Conference, and help advise our other diversity groups.
  • Faculty of Color Group

  • Gender and Sexuality Awareness (GSA)

    GSA creates a safe space for LGBT+ students and educates students on how to be better allies within our community.
  • Hispanic and Latino Club

    Aims to preserve and promote Spanish, Latin American, and Latino cultures by raising awareness of the cultures of the Spanish-speaking world and by celebrating the richness, diversity, and contributions of Hispanic and Latino populations. We want to provide a sense of community and security for our Hispanic and Latino students.
  • Jewish Affinity Group

    The mission of the Jewish Affinity Group is two-fold: provide camaraderie and a safe place for students who identify as Jewish, and educate the greater St. Luke’s community about our shared heritage and cultural differences, thus discouraging intolerance.

Affinity Group FAQs

List of 8 frequently asked questions.

  • What happens in affinity groups?

    What happens in different groups will vary but most groups find ways to share experiences, discuss problems, and support one another. Many groups will ask different members to lead discussions and participate in exercises around identity development and self-reflection. At times groups may engage in educational opportunities to learn more about their shared identity—this may include a group read, a guest speaker, and group trips. Additionally, some groups may choose to educate the community on particular customs or celebrations throughout the year.
  • What is an affinity group at St. Luke’s School?

    Affinity groups, in contrast to clubs, are formed to support groups that are or might be marginalized at St. Luke’s due to being in the minority or historically under-represented school population. They are brave spaces that provide stimulating opportunity, during school hours, for students in underrepresented groups to support and validate each other, to express themselves, and to understand the shared values that unite them with the entire school community.

    Connection through affinity groups is one way we can support all community members in their desires to bring their whole, authentic selves to school.
  • Can I participate in more than one affinity group?

    Yes. It is entirely possible for people to identify with more than one group and there is no need to limit participation if your schedule allows multiple commitments.
  • Shouldn’t we have dialogues about our differences all together rather than in separate groups?

    There are many opportunities for members of the St. Luke’s community to have dialogue across differences--indeed, these conversations happen both formally and informally every day. Affinity spaces work toward the same goal of intergroup dialogue and understanding but from a different angle. The language of “windows and mirrors” can be helpful here. Conversations across differences can provide windows for each of us into another person’s experience and identity. Conversations in affinity spaces can provide a mirror, a chance for a person in an underrepresented or marginalized group to remember that they are not alone. The group can be a space for members to engage in conversation without needing to explain everything in a way that translates their experiences. We all know how good it feels to be understood. Of course, sharing a single identity--such as race--does not mean every member of that affinity group will think or feel the same way; and similarly, we can find “mirrors” with people who are quite different from us. Ultimately, being part of an affinity group can give a person with a marginalized identity the support and strength needed to engage more fully with intergroup dialogue.
  • I already know what it means to be xxx. Could I hear what the yyy folks are saying?

    People from marginalized groups have historically been asked to bear the burden - and the frustration - of being expected to “teach” majority folks what we don’t know (but could learn ourselves), or to represent an entire community’s perspective (rather than just their own). A key function of affinity groups is to lift those burdens, freeing up time and energy that might otherwise need to be spent on bridging understandings to experiences that are not commonly shared, or that might be artificially limited for fear of offending or misunderstanding. If you’re looking for a way to understand another’s experience, our recommendation is to build genuine relationships and ask questions from a place of humble curiosity.
  • What are the benefits of affinity groups?

    We believe Affinity Groups advance our mission by helping to create an environment where everyone feels supported and able to thrive. The support offered by these groups can improve the St. Luke’s experience and encourage students and adults to become empathetic, confident leaders. 

    Affinity groups promote diversity and inclusion by creating spaces—free of judgement and constriction— for members to connect, share experiences and resources, and identify successes and challenges. This connection can be powerful and comforting. All of us can relate to how important it is to feel we are not alone; there are others who understand how we experience school and the world. 

    According to the National Association of Independent Schools:As a learning base, affinity groups offer affirmation of identity, empowerment of the individual, and empowerment of the group within the learning community — all things worth fighting for.”

    Research indicates that affinity groups are important for the health and sustainability of organizations. Many educational institutions, as well as corporations,  utilize affinity groups (often called Employee Resource Groups in corporate settings) to improve communication, relationships, and collaboration with a diverse group of people. Below are a few recent articles on this topic.

  • I am a member of a so-called privileged group. Are there affinity groups for me?

    The purpose of affinity groups is to provide opportunities to people who share identities that are typically marginalized in society for affirmation and exploration of that identity in a uniquely supportive space. Those who possess majority identifiers are provided with opportunities for affirmation, celebration, and belonging on a regular basis, without really having to look for it. Accordingly, St. Luke’s doesn’t have affinity groups for those identifiers, yet we have many opportunities to join groups that explore similar questions of equity & inclusion: e.g., Gender & Sexuality Alliance (GSA), White Educators Against Racism Everywhere (WE ARE), SLS READS, and White Students for Equity, to name a few. 
  • Shouldn’t we focus on our similarities and not our differences?

    At St. Luke’s School we think expansively about our community welcome differences as a strength. We recognize and value the different heritages, experiences, and cultures that our families bring to our community and we strive to be fully inclusive. Attempts to minimize differences and say, “we’re all the same” devalues others and can send the message that diversity is something to be ashamed of. Affinity groups serve an important role in a diverse community as they allow people from underrepresented groups to receive support from those who share their identity.

The Sentinel—Student Voices

Teachers and Administrators Lean In

An exceptional teacher creates an inclusive atmosphere. St. Luke's students, faculty, staff, and administrators develop skills and grow understanding through many personal and professional experiences including: 

NAIS Diversity Leadership Institute
In 2017, faculty members formed WE ARE, which stands for White Educators Against Racism Everywhere. WE ARE focuses on fostering empathy, combatting racism, and cultivating meaningful allyship. In 2018, a few faculty volunteers launched SLSReads, a discussion group that selects books to intentionally widen our lenses on Equity & Inclusion. 

"We formed WE ARE at St. Luke's in 2017 so that, as white allies, we could do what one educator has called "inside-out work." White Americans are often socialized not to see race or to avoid discussing it. This blindness and discomfort can prevent us from being effective allies in disrupting racism (or even in noticing racism in the first place)...I'm moved to hear so many members of our community express a commitment to equity and inclusion."

- Liz Perry, Head of Upper School

Among the many books read and recommended by the SLS community members are these favorites...

A Place for Us  - Fatima Farheen Mirza
Americanah - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Between the World and Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates
Educated: A Memoir - Tara Westover
The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas
The Water Dancer - Ta-Nehisi Coates
There There - Tommy Orange
Waking Up White, And Finding Myself in the Story of Race - Debby Irving
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
 - Robin DiAngelo
Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? - Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD

At St. Luke's: Every employee has annual Equity Learning Goals that are central to annual reviews and reflections. 

From the Leading Voices Blog

Our Stories


St. Luke's BSU and TEACH Team Ask: What Does It Mean To You To Be Black?

National Hispanic Heritage Month: St. Luke's Students & Faculty

St. Luke's Meditation by Raven Sead '20

St. Luke's Meditation by Jim Foley, Assistant Head of School for Leadership & Innovation

St. Luke’s School is a secular (non-religious), private school in New Canaan, CT for grades 5 through 12 serving 25 towns in Connecticut and New York. Our exceptional academics and diverse co-educational community foster students’ intellectual and ethical development and prepare them for top colleges. St. Luke’s Center for Leadership builds the commitment to serve and the confidence to lead.