Courtesy La Salle Prep
La Salle Prep Vice Principal of Academics Mario De Ieso, religious studies teacher Ryan Darmody and counselor Renee Giesemann discuss the words of poet Maya Angelou as faculty and staff prepare to launch a schoolwide discussion of identity this year.
Courtesy La Salle Prep La Salle Prep Vice Principal of Academics Mario De Ieso, religious studies teacher Ryan Darmody and counselor Renee Giesemann discuss the words of poet Maya Angelou as faculty and staff prepare to launch a schoolwide discussion of identity this year.
MILWAUKIE — Along with subjects such as English and math, La Salle Prep students will study another topic this year: identity.

Through discussions and assignments, all 711 students will delve into the subject as part of a schoolwide reflection on identity. Throughout the year, they’ll ask questions such as: Who am I? How do relationships, experiences, culture, religion and environment shape what we believe and who we become? How do I respond to those different from me?

“In a time when our nation is often divided — by politics, race, learning styles or gender — we are developing programming that allows students to see how identity is formed, and how that identity informs how they see the world and understand differences,” said La Salle Principal Andrew Kuffner. 

Administrators selected the theme after hearing students and teachers search for a way to discuss the nation’s challenges with inclusion and race, said Alanna O’Brien, a vice principal who oversees curriculum and professional development.

“The Lasallian core value of ‘accepting all persons’ is one that our nation is struggling with now,” she said. “Before we can talk about the violence and struggle in our nation, it’s important that we’re self-reflective of our own identity and the lenses with which we see the world.”  

Over the years, La Salle has explored social justice themes such as immigration and childhood poverty. This year’s theme kicks off a multiyear focus on culture, race and relationships.

“This is a timely and relevant topic, critically important as we strive to form our young people into the best versions of who God calls them to be,” said Kuffner.

La Salle’s study of identity started with assignments to read books — such as Firoozeh Dumas’ “Funny in Farsi” — that let readers see the world through the eyes of another.

Kuffner invites the community to join La Salle on their exploration by reading from the book list, considering Pope Francis’ Prayer for a More Human Society and reflecting on the pope’s 2014 comments about identity:

“If our communication is not to be a monologue,” he said, “there has to be openness of heart and mind to accepting individuals and cultures.”