Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Wheeler

A group of high school students involved in diversity work at the annual celebration cookout
Members of Students Interested In Cultural Awareness at the annual Families of Color Cookout.

At Wheeler, we recognize that our school exists in a community, state, country, and world represented by a multitude of cultures and viewpoints. Therefore, diversity and multiculturalism imbue all that we do. From academic programs to athletic programs, extra-curricular and co-curricular activities, Wheeler endeavors to create an environment that includes people and viewpoints from a variety of cultures, backgrounds, and ways of life.

The Office of Unity & Diversity, led by Director Princess Sirleaf Bomba, supports the ongoing efforts at  Wheeler to incorporate multicultural approaches to both existing and new practices. We provide resources to the Wheeler community in the areas of community education; consultation to faculty, staff and families; and developing inclusive practices. Wheeler’s required diversity education program is about having respect for others, regardless of age, gender, race, ability, sexual orientation, economic status or religion. The curriculum utilizes texts and materials that give voice to those people and perspectives previously unheard and includes sensitivity on the part of our faculty, staff and administration to the circumstances that affect the lives of our students, families, and colleagues on a day-to-day basis. Adults at Wheeler engage in ongoing professional development opportunities in the area of multicultural teaching and learning, and in cultivating and maintaining a multicultural community.

The Wheeler Diversity Conference

Wheeler faculty and students attend local, regional and national conferences to further their work in these areas.  Wheeler is the host of a regional conference each April as part of the Pollyanna network of DEI conferences.  Learn about Wheeler’s annual Diversity Conference for students, alumni, parents, heads, trustees, faculty, and administrators of independent schools.

Fast Facts on DEI at Wheeler

+ As of the 2018-19 school year, Wheeler has 35% students of color among its community.
+ For the 2019-20 school year, Wheeler has 26% teachers of color among its faculty.

Questions about Wheeler's DEI philosophy

For us, “diversity” refers to any of what we call “socially significant identities”, i.e., an identity that can matter in terms of how people are treated in contemporary American society. Major examples include race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class, age, and physical or mental ability.

Why do [Wheeler students] seem so emboldened to take risks, to share talent, to emote, to express themselves, to be themselves? It is created through a student culture that moves beyond withholding judgment (no mean feat) to actively endorsing one another’s individualities and particular passions. Wheeler’s Mission: “To Learn Our Powers And Be Answerable To Their Use” supports an environment where all our members can say “Wheeler is my school.” Our Statement on Diversity and Community further defines the connections between our overall mission and diversity work.

At Wheeler we focus on the whole child, which includes social and emotional development. Research has shown that children become better critical thinkers, better students, and better people if they engage with people who are different from them, including in socially significant ways, and this is especially true for members of majority groups, who tend to see themselves reflected in their surroundings more than they see people who are different from them. We also recognize that our current generation of students is going to enter an adult world in which they will be expected to be able to work successfully in environments with all different kinds of people.

The Wheeler School’s Community Spirit Award:

Established in 2004, the Wheeler School Community Spirit Award recognizes a person in the Providence Community who advocates for those who have fewer opportunities. Recipients are recognized for their efforts in four key areas: · Passion for equity and social justice , both locally and globally · Appreciation for and promotion of the benefits of education · Commitment to creating opportunities in the community for those who otherwise might not have a voice or an advocate · Resilience in the face of challenge and adversity. We ask each recipient to attend the annual Wheeler School Community Potluck Dinner, where the award is presented. The Family Potluck dinner is a school-wide event, sponsored by the Upper School’s diversity club Students Involved in Cultural Awareness (SICA), the Office of Unity & Diversity and the Wheeler Parent’s Association.

Community Spirit Award Recipients

2019 Jeffrey Osborne, musical performer and philanthropist

2018 Rose Weaver, acclaimed musician, playwright, actress and activist and 2019 RI Woman of the Year

2017 Dan Miller, Wheeler Head of School, 2002-2017

2016 Patrice Wood, news anchor, WJAR-TV, Providence for her advocacy work on behalf of adoptees and their families.

2015 Joseph Le, former executive director of  Providence-based Center for Southeast Asians

2014 Richard Rose, Assistant US Attorney

2013 Angelo Garcia, founder and head of school, Segue Institute for Learning

2012  Mamie Catlin, in absentia, founder of Camp Street Community Ministries

2011 Teny Gross, executive director, RI Institute for the Study and Practice of Non-Violence

2010 G. Gail Davis, educator/coach, Rhode Island College Student-Athlete Center

2009 Jim Vincent, Manager of Constituent Relations, RI Housing

2008 Len Cabral, Master Storyteller

2007 Armeather Gibbs, United Way executive

2006 Healthcare and community activist Dr. Pablo Rodriguez

2005 Educator and founder of Urban Collaborative Accelerated Program Rob DeBlois

2004 RI Superior Court Judge Ed Clifton

  • Ongoing professional development for faculty and staff around socially significant identities and the opportunities and issues they raise for us, both on campus and at regional and national conferences
  • Ongoing professional development for middle and upper school students around socially significant identities and the opportunities and issues they raise for us, both on campus and at regional and national conferences
  • Grade level focuses on various aspects of diversity N-12
  • Required diversity curriculum (“Unity & Diversity”) in grades 4-9
  • Racial, ethnic, and religious affinity groups for students
  • Parent diversity discussion groups

Wheeler's Unity & Diversity Team

Our Voices

U&D News