Culture Project seeks to build empathy on campus

Photo by Bryce Owen ’17 | Axell Komlan ’18 speaks at the first installment of Faces of Brophy presented by the Culture Club, Dec. 6. The culture club seeks to share culture and stories through lunchtime presentations.

By Tyler Conrad ’17

On a post election campus, The Brophy Culture Project seeks to share stories of student’s heritage and allow diversity to have a greater presence on campus.  

Club leader Juan Carlos Lopez ’17 said faculty members who wanted to emphasize discussions of race and culture on Brophy’s campus started the group.

“At the beginning of this school year, some faculty like [Mr. Will] Rutt [’08], [Mrs. Kallie] Hylle, [Ms. Kendra] Krause, [Mr. Jonathan] Londoño and [Ms. Tanea] Hibler got together and brainstormed the names of some students they felt really cared about culture and where we come from,” he said.

Despite being a founding faculty member, Mr. Rutt said the club is truly student-run now with occasional guidance from teachers.

“We thought we needed to go from both a faculty and a student level,” he said. “So we created a student committee on diversity, and we kind of let it up to them to shape it from there.”

Mr. Rutt said this idea did not come solely due to observations on campus, but rather through the advice of the larger Jesuit community.

“It came out from the larger push in the Jesuit world that Jesuit schools are struggling on an institutional level to talk about race, to deal with race, to think about race, to address race in a focused way,” he said.

Mr. Rutt said the goal of the project is to achieve a dialogue that leads to better understanding on campus.

“I think empathy and vulnerability are at the center of it,” Mr. Rutt said. “The only time I think vulnerability takes place sometimes are on a retreat like Kairos or Magis, and it seems kinda silly to restrain those moments of openness to just the retreat.”

The project has been hosting presentations known as “Faces of Brophy” that allow students to share their stories, in hopes of increasing this empathy.

Lopez said the momentum of the project has been increasing after every “Faces of Brophy” sharing.

“We just had a student talk about being gay, another one about having immigrant african parents, and another went so far as to say he was undocumented,” he said. “I feel the reason for this drive to share is because we are seeing how much of a success our project is having. At every new Faces of Brophy, we have a larger turnout than the previous one, helping us want to share more.”

Club member Axell Komlan ’18 said the presentations are giving a voice to students who have felt they were silenced in the past.

“Because of this club, people are not only more open to listening to other points of view, but they are also gaining the courage to share their own unique experiences and start contributing to the conversation,” Komlan said.

Both Lopez and Komlan shared their stories at Faces at Brophy events in the first semester.

Komlan said being able to share in an open community was a liberating experience for him.

“I’m a very introverted person to be honest,” he said. “It wasn’t until that Tuesday that I really felt at ease in front of a community like this.”

Lopez said that even though the club was formed months before, the election placed an even greater importance on the project’s mission.

“Before the election, the kids that presented at the Faces of Brophy were really just sharing who they were without any opinions behind hot topics,” Lopez said. “When the election was over, it drove us into talking about hot topics and expressing how we felt with as much authenticity as possible, even if that meant sounding angry.”

However, Mr. Rutt said the club was made to be a place to address culture and heritage, not political mindsets.

“There’s the tension to address political ideologies, and I think that’s actually been the biggest role of the faculty advisors, is to say ok, we have to be all inclusive, we to engage all political affiliations, and we have to come up at this with a humanistic perspective, not a political perspective,” he said.