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Fireside Chats Spark New Beginning

Photo: Libby Sams Quotes: Mr. Holifield, Ms. McCrary, and Kieran LeHane (L-R) Kieran LeHane, Mitch Inman, and Mr. Holifield converse on LGBTQ subjects.

(L-R) Kieran LeHane, Mitch Inman, and Mr. Holifield converse on LGBTQ subjects. Photo Credit: Libby Sams

As the new year advances at Pace Academy, so do the ideas and projects for 2016. At least, that’s true for Director of Diversity Rick Holifield, who organized the Academy’s first “fireside chats.” Over the past couple of years, Mr. Holifield has looked to the student body for program ideas. As an outgrowth of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) assembly of 2014, Mr. Holifield took feedback he received from students and determined that many wanted more forums to discuss controversial subjects out loud.

Mr. Holifield came up with the idea to host a series of fireside chats. These chats are meant to be opportunities for intimate groups of people to converse and express opinions on sometimes sensitive subjects. “I want to give the students a voice and a means of exchange in order to teach them how to have honorable discourse with dissenting perspectives in a respectful way,” said Mr. Holifield. “It’s a chance to express your opinion and thoughts.” Mr. Holifield was not the originator of the name for these gatherings, as U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt held televised fireside chats where he gave speeches to renew confidence and hope in the American people.

“It was really informative and productive,” said senior Kieran LeHane, on attending a recent discussion. “We were able to talk about what Pace has accomplished in the past, what was successful, and make a plan that will hopefully result in the formation of new alliances and affinity groups.”

Pace Academy’s first fireside chat over the topic of LGBTQ issues with assembly speaker Dr. Love was a success. “It was very intimate and open, but it needs work in advertising,” said Ms. McCrary, Administrative Assistant to Upper School Head Mr. Gannon.

Mr. Holifield still has adjustments he wants to make. “Fireside chats is great in theory, but not in practicality,” said Mr. Holifield. “Instead of having the students come out to the conversation, I want to bring the conversation to the students.” In order to accomplish this, Mr. Holifield is creating a fireside chat dialogue online via Google Classroom. This classroom will be a place where the entire Upper School can participate in a discussion on a given topic or question. Then, this electronic discussion will be used as a forum for the physical fireside chat on a set date.

Even with improvements to be made, Mr. Holifield’s fireside chats look to strengthen the bonds of the family at Pace Academy – over Willy’s catering of course.