“I always look for identity tags when I’m meeting new students, and hers were very clear,” said Bridget Choo, John Wright dorm head and director of diversity. “Kids have them either on their wrists, their sweatshirts, or posters, but hers was a frame of Dr. Martin Luther King sitting on her desk,” she said.
The picture was a gift from Harris-Kuiper’s mother who has admired Dr. King her whole life. His image and life’s work is a point of inspiration for both mother and daughter.
Dr. King is also Choo’s personal hero and, “I started to talk to her about him and she got really animated,” recalled Choo. That was when Choo explained to “Mar,” as her friends know her, how she could have a role in promoting diversity awareness on campus. She asked if Harris-Kuiper wanted to attend a diversity conference in December. “I said yes and…it ended up being one of the best experiences of my life,” Harris-Kuiper recalled.
The training Harris-Kuiper received at the student diversity leadership conference was her gateway to involvement with diversity at Williston, she said. “I realized I had a huge role for diversity at Williston: to become a leader,” she said, “And try to give what I can to Williston.”
Now a sophomore and a diversity intern, Harris-Kuiper works directly with Choo to plan events, including the annual Diversity Conference. She works on the cultural identity nights, which highlight personal stories of members of the community, brainstorms ideas for student workshops, and helps with international student orientation in September.
“She almost immediately stepped into a leadership role,” said Choo of Harris-Kuiper’s involvement.
One of the application requirements to become a diversity intern is to propose an idea for something you want to bring to Williston. Harris-Kuiper pitched the idea of creating a girls’ club.
“It’ll be a girls’ club where we can talk about relationships, what it’s like being a girl at a prep school/boarding school, girl problems,” she said. “If you’re not comfortable with talking to teachers, your mom, or even some of your friends, you can talk about it there.”
Harris-Kuiper will attend Northfield Mount Hermon’s Diversity Conference where she will sit in on a workshop similar to the club she envisioned. “I’m going to theirs, going to our conference, and then actually starting it,” she said.
Williston’s 11th Annual Diversity Conference begins the night of Thursday, February 14 with a talk by Holyoke Mayor Alex B. Morse. The program continues the next day with presentations by performance artist Dan Kwong and former NBA player, and recovering drug addict, Chris Herren.
“You’re definitely going to get a deep speech from Chris Herren,” Harris-Kuiper said. “Once you leave…you’re going to be taken aback and just thinking, ‘Wow.’”
Harris-Kuiper is playing a very large role in this year’s diversity conference. In addition to running her own morning workshop, which she did last year as a freshman, she will be the co-leader of an afternoon workshop entitled “Leadership Potential” with Springfield psychologist Aaron Buford. Harris-Kuiper will also mediate a discussion on how to move away from previously established gender roles.
A dedicated student, the word commitment came up consistently in conversations with Harris-Kuiper’s teachers and coaches.
“She’s committed to understanding,” said Kim Evelti, Harris-Kuiperr’s math teacher and assistant academic dean for program development.
An avid and skilled member of the varsity basketball team, Harris-Kuiper excels on the court and would like to play in college. This past summer she attended Hoop Mountain Basketball camp where she, “committed herself to improving,” explained girls varsity basketball coach Kevin Kudla.
Since last season, Harris-Kuiper has gone from fighting for a starting position to starting every game. Kudla added, “Her jump in confidence and success has been terrific and I credit that to her hard work and commitment.”
Bridget Choo would like to thank the following for helping to make this year’s Diversity Conference the success it was:
Hannah Lewis, Bianca Schultz, Sylvia Skerry, A’kala Chaires, Nat Hippolyte, Mar Harris-Kuiper, Hannah Lee, Brittany Collins, Gaby Small, Nick Pattison, Janelle Parker, Liz Calderone, Gia Parker, Erin An, Rachel Rockwell, Damir Tulemaganbetov, Regina Ryjih, Alex Li, Tina Zhang, Lucy Du, Melissa Francione, Oliver Demers, Teddy Carellas, Julia Valine, Camila Paiva, Yu Chen, Anthony Leung, Jen Carellas, Jackie Kioussis, Emily Wang, James Kim, Caitlin Murray, Abigail Rogers, Emily Cavazuti, Fiona Li, Dennison Marsland Rello, Rachel Deena, Tzu-Jung Huang, Esther Kim, Uyen Ngoc Le, Zoya-Jade Lewin, Joshua Simpson, Xiaoping Sun, Michael Thompson, and Persis Ticknor-Swanson.
Photography from the day can be found on our Flickr account.