UTS is proud of the growing community of youth who play an active and central role across every aspect and every event.
Imani Cintado O’ Donavan joined the UTS family in 2018 and has remained a key contributor to many events as a young leader. She became a UTS Youth Reporter in 2021 and has been inspiring her peers and the UTS community.
Today, we hear from Imani about her views on the meaning of Inclusion, the core UTS value:
“Inclusion aims to remove all barriers by eliminating discrimination and intolerance and giving equal access and opportunities to all people regardless of race, gender, or disability. For me personally, inclusion is about being part of a community where you are allowed to be different without being judged. It is about feeling safe in your surroundings, being open-minded and accepting of others, respecting everyone equally, and celebrating differences and diversity. When it comes to inclusion, one of the most important things is being ourselves and realising that the more we can be ourselves, the more we can bring to any given situation.
Inclusion can allow us to get rid of any fear and anxiety put upon us by our biases, preconceived ideas, and surroundings. Our unconscious biases can sometimes trigger a fearful or anxious response and cause us to be less inclusive or even less understanding of those who are different to us; therefore, it is crucial to understand what our biases or fears are in order to work on them and create a more tolerant atmosphere for ourselves and others. Everyone benefits from a community as humans are pack animals and perform better in groups. Feeling like we belong is a sense that everyone should have the privilege of feeling. Understanding different perspectives can bring a whole range of diversity and inclusion into our communities.
So why is inclusion so important? The Special Olympics came up with five reasons why inclusion is essential in sport.
The first point is that “Inclusion promotes tolerance and reduces bullying.” This is because inclusion unifies people and forms understanding and acceptance between people. In contrast, exclusion does quite the opposite and can amplify feelings of fear of exclusion and
even hate and intolerance. This statement could be applied in more aspects of life, not just in sports. Interaction and coexistence with people from different backgrounds or abilities in various environments such as the workplace or school can lead to increased tolerance in our daily lives.
The second point was that “Inclusion cultivates empathy.” For example, working together in teams can lead to the development of friendships, and getting to know people socially leads to the cultivation of empathy. A developed understanding can also lead to even more inclusion in the future.
The third reason stated was “Inclusion helps people develop a positive self-image.” Representation can have a tremendous impact on self-esteem. When you see people who look like you being represented anywhere, especially in the media, you feel a sense of belonging, and it can inspire you to do things that you never thought you could do. Inclusion can help you raise your self-esteem while also helping you grow other people’s self-esteem.
Point four stated that “Inclusion drives meaningful change,” meaning that the understanding that accompanies an inclusive mindset can drive people to fight for things they believe in and be the change they want to see in the world.
And lastly, “Inclusion helps us see the person first.” This changes our perspective. Instead of seeing race, religion or disability first, it allows us to go in and see the person’s personality likes and dislikes first, reducing judgement at first glance.
Inclusion in schools is vital in order to change mentalities early on to avoid future discriminatory attitudes and bias. It also provides equal support and opportunities to all students. It allows interaction between all students and helps them understand that it is okay to be different and that we should all have equal opportunities. Inclusion also challenges stereotypes that may have been imposed on children at young ages and allows them to see past the stereotypes and create their own experiences. We would all like to live in a world or society where everyone is accepted and is seen as equal. We need to change our mindset and encourage others to do the same to achieve this goal.
In order to be inclusive, you have to have an open mind, and you must be open to communication; being inquisitive and open-minded can help you understand more about one’s culture, norms, and beliefs. However, it is essential to be respectful when asking any questions in order not to make anyone feel uncomfortable or judged. Being inquisitive can help understand the point of view of other people and will lead to a more genuine understanding of what they are going through.
Another thing you could do to be more inclusive is to reach out to your fellow students, colleagues, or peers who you feel may be having a hard time to make them feel welcome and to create a comfortable environment for both yourself and the other party. Stereotypes and assumptions can be very dangerous and harmful, and you should never let these preconceived ideas of people from a certain group get in the way of inclusivity.
Last but not least, be aware of your privileges and understand the struggles that other people face daily. You might never have to face the things that some people go through.
Understanding your privilege allows you to be objective and do everything in your power to help a person feel comfortable in their own skin and in their surroundings.“
www.youtube.com. (n.d.). What Is Inclusion – Inclusion Imperative. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ea4TdXGp8f0.
SpecialOlympics.org. (2020). Why Inclusion Is Important. [online] Available at: https://www.specialolympics.org/stories/impact/why-inclusion-is-important#:~:text=Reason %202%3A%20Inclusion%20Cultivates%20Empathy [Accessed 2 Apr. 2022].
Kaplan Pathways. (n.d.). Why is inclusion important? [online] Available at: https://www.kaplanpathways.com/blog/why-is-inclusion-important/#:~:text=When%20peo ple%20feel%20included%20they [Accessed 2 Apr. 2022].