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Highlights of 2023 Cor Unum Week

Highlights of 2023 Cor Unum Week

Convent & Stuart Hall's 5th annual Cor Unum Week was a celebration of Latin American Heritage.

Every year at Convent & Stuart Hall, one week in spring is designated as Cor Unum Week. The time is set aside to learn from visiting speakers and artists and draw attention to a topic that allows students to engage with today’s most pressing issues through dialogue.

Here are some of the highlights from an exciting 2023 Cor Unum Week.

Jennifer De Leon
As part of a celebration of Latin American Heritage, Convent & Stuart Hall welcomed Jennifer De Leon, the award-winning author of the young adult novel Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From, for a daylong visit on March 15. The daughter of Guatemalan parents, Ms. De Leon grew up balancing “two Jenns,” alternating between the identities of “white Jenn” and “Guatemalan Jenn,” she told students in Grades 6–12.

After speaking to students in a packed Syufy Theatre about her life and how she found her voice on the page, Ms. De Leon led a "Power of Storytelling" workshop for 30 sixth-eighth graders in the Mother Williams Library. “We live in a three-dimensional world, and we want to infuse those images into our writing,” she said. In pairs, students identified significant objects in their lives and wrote about them using sensory imagery, the secret to strong creative writing, according to Ms. De Leon.

Daniel Fishman, Studies in Literature & English Language faculty, moderated a Q&A with Ms. De Leon following an afternoon talk she gave for parents, alumni, faculty and staff.

Juana Martinez-Neal
On March 17, the New York Times bestselling children’s book illustrator and author Juana Martinez-Neal gave two presentations in the Merlone Family Little Theater. She spoke first to kindergarten and first grade students about growing up in a family of painters in Peru, finding her own unique style and pursuing a career in picture books in the U.S., followed by students in Grades 2–4. Her visit concluded with an illustration workshop for fifth grade boys and girls, co-led and organized by Visual Arts Department faculty members.

Luis Alberto Urrea
The following week on March 22, Luis Alberto Urrea, the author of 16 books, including The Devils Highway, his non-fiction account of a group of Mexican immigrants lost in the Arizona desert, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, shared stories with students in Grades 6–12 about his Mexican-American family and his childhood in Tijuana and San Diego. The Mexican-American border, he said, ran straight through the middle of his family’s San Diego apartment.

The complexities of life near the border and Mr. Urrea’s vivid sense of that reality were at the heart of his talk, but he also touched on the challenges he faced as a young writer, the mentor who changed the course of his life and the hard work of developing characters.

Mr. Urrea’s visit also included a workshop for high school students taught entirely in Spanish and an afternoon session for adults in Syufy Theatre.

Arawana Hayashi
Students, faculty, staff, parents and the school's Leadership Team experienced the connective Social Presencing Theater (SPT) work of Arawana Hayashi of the Presencing Institute. She engaged groups throughout Cor Unum Week in various embodiment exercises.

Ms. Hayashi, who developed SPT through a collaboration with MIT Professor Otto Scharmer, examines how transforming social systems can generate well-being. She led several morning somatic awareness sessions for adults, exploring questions such as: How can we continue to remain grounded in our daily lives? And what does it mean to be present and in tune with our body’s sense perceptions?

With Convent seventh graders, Ms. Hayashi guided a “Stuck” exercise, in which groups of students created body sculptures representing one aspect of their “stuckness” and then transformed into a second embodiment, their emerging future. She also introduced SPT concepts to high school Theory of Knowledge students and met with members of select clubs.  

Finally, Ms. Hayashi led the school’s Leadership Team in two sessions of Awareness Practice for Leadership based on Theory U, a transformative learning framework for systemic change. Exercises included practicing aligning one’s attention with one’s intention and fostering an Open Mind, Open Heart and Open Will in our professional and personal lives.