GSB parent and creator/founder of the non-profit Don’t Hide It, Flaunt It (DHIFI), Meg Zucker P’25, visited GSB lower and middle school students as part of our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Community (DEIC) programming recognizing National Disability Awareness Month.
In two special assemblies for Grades 3-5 and Grades 6-8, Mrs. Zucker shared her experience growing up in the United States and abroad with “ectrodactyly,” a physical difference which presents in her as shortened forearms, one finger on each hand, and one toe on each foot. As a child, Mrs. Zucker felt the need to hide her difference, but as she grew older, she came to understand that being different is normal. Her philosophy shifted from focusing on her physical difference to focusing on who she was and what she wanted, and she realized that what truly made her, and all of us, unique were those differences—and they needed to be shown off.
Mrs. Zucker would eventually pass ectrodactyly along to two of her three children. After Mrs. Zucker’s son Ethan was cruelly bullied on the playground for his physical differences, she launched DHIFI with the goal of building empathy and positive peer relationships between children. In the first part of the program, Mrs. Zucker discusses the effects of stares vs. pity, cruelty vs. curiosity, and the need to celebrate visible and invisible differences with the audience. Afterwards, students are asked to self-reflect and to identify their own personal, unique trait(s) to “flaunt.” Students then created a photographic or written description of those qualities which are exhibited publicly within the school to foster dialogue and enhance relationship development between students, educators, administrators, and families.
“It is so important for students to see the world through others' eyes, to have their perspective expanded, and to be reminded that difference is normal,” said Lower School DEIC Coordinator Cendahl Cornellio-Alter. “We are all unique humans, and we each have something wonderful to offer the world and our community. We are honored to have Meg Zucker speak to lower and middle school students on these topics and to encourage them to flaunt the thing that makes them unique. I look forward to seeing how students embrace this challenge!”
Observed annually in October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) celebrates the contributions of America’s workers with disabilities past and present and showcases supportive, inclusive employment policies and practices. This effort to educate the public about topics related to disability began as a week-long recognition in 1945 and has expanded to a month-long celebration today.