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Network Virtual Dialogue Exchange


Even amidst a pandemic, participation in programs sponsored by the Network of Sacred Heart Schools remains an important part of a SHA education. This year, six Upper School students engaged in a new dialogue program with other Sacred Heart schools entitled “Solidarity and Sustainability.” With the Sacred Heart Goals and Criteria as the guide, the Sacred Heart Network Virtual Dialogue Exchange aims to deliver programming centered around equity, open communication, and the building of community. The students who participate are Lucy Day ‘22, Regan Dougherty ‘23, Caroline Fleming ‘22, Emily Hart ‘23, Ciani May ‘21, and Kiley Mullen ‘22. Each of these students previously participated in dialogue programming or workshops through SHA or the Network. They are guided by faculty moderators Kerri Schuster and Kelly Weber.

For April’s session, the students from SHA Bryn Mawr served as hosts of the two-hour virtual dialogue. Together they chose the theme of environment and sustainability. For over a month prior the event, the students and faculty met virtually at lunch periods to plan the dialogue. The session was split into three segments: a focus on regional issues, a focus on global themes, and a look at Sacred Heart communities. The student leaders researched environmental topics local to the greater Philadelphia region as well as wider concerns such as fast fashion and The Paris Agreement, and then encouraged the students from other schools to do the same. During the session, the SHA student facilitators guided all participants through meaningful dialogue. A common experience was that though each participating school had unique ideas to share, many themes are felt in common. The dialogue ended with students thinking about how they can encourage more sustainable practices in their school communities. 

The six SHA students reflected on their participation and leadership in the program. Senior Ciani May shared “I loved Courageous Conversations and wanted to do that on a larger scale. I wanted to meet other Sacred Heart girls and see their perspectives on important issues.” Junior Kiley Mullen has participated regularly in Network programs in person and missed them this year. This program allowed her the best opportunity to do so as a junior. She says “I miss in-person Network programs and I wanted to make connections with girls from other Sacred Heart schools about bigger concerns in society while also getting to know them personally.” The chance to lead the virtual dialogue also strengthened these connections between schools, as Sophomore Regan Dougherty reflects “It was really amazing to see how sustainability and environmental issues are different, yet alike in different states and cities.” In their time as both participants and facilitators, the students noted how empowering it feels to tackle important issues with other young people. Sophomore Emily Hart shares “dialogue is so vital because educating yourself and seeing what works for other people is what can really lead to action with a lasting impact.” Similarly, Junior Caroline Fleming sees the importance of dialogue with people who have different life experiences, whether that be in geographic location, race, or religious belief. In thinking about her experiences, she notes “dialogue is so important as we live in a time where many are divided and many injustices persist. It is a crucial way to share different perspectives and solve problems. This program presents a unique opportunity to discuss global issues with others who share similar passions but also offer diverse viewpoints.” Finally, an important theme in each dialogue session is how to turn awareness into action. Junior Lucy Day has an idea for SHA, saying “I would love to see an introduction of reusable products at SHA to carry out sustainability at our school. Whether this entails reusable utensils or plates, a little step goes a long way!”

The students have one more dialogue session in May and a wrap-up in June. Thank you students for being wonderful leaders and ambassadors for SHA Bryn Mawr and encouraging all of us to use dialogue to make a difference.