Diversity, Equity and Inclusion » Spotlights


Sacred Heart Academy Summer Reading Program

Sacred Heart Academy focused its 2020-21 Summer Reading program on social justice, immigration, and the importance of a widening worldview while combining authentic service opportunities.

Freshman: Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas
Sophomore: I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda
Junior: Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza
Senior: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Over the past five years, the English department has worked to develop a curriculum that has a balance of both contemporary works and the classical canon at each grade level. The English Department has also been engaged in making the summer reading selection a study of strong women, focusing on nonfiction texts that provide the opportunity for students to explore issues of social justice.  We are continually developing and adapting the curriculum and all teachers actively reflect on and refine their teaching each year to always improve and meet the needs of students. This year’s summer reading selections reflected that intent and provided opportunities for students to expand their worldview.

For the 2020-21 academic year, SHA’s English Department moved away from the One School, One Book program of the last four years. While that program brought about rich discussions across grade levels and a sense of community that came from engaging in a common book study, the school recognized that each grade level has specific needs and abilities and saw the importance of strengthening the connections to the core value for each class and developing outreach projects for students to engage in each year in conjunction with their discussion on summer reading.

The freshman selection, Funny in Farsi, is a collection of vignettes describing the experiences of the Iranian-born author upon moving to America with her family in the 1970s. It explores the ideas of identity and community as Dumas walks the line between maintaining her cultural traditions at home with her family and her desire to experience American customs. SHA had planned to partner with Americana or Catholic Charities to design outreach for the freshman students during this unit, but restrictions were in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic. English department leadership is continuing to research other options for students that will allow them to have an authentic learning and service experience in regard to immigration.

The sophomore selection, I Will Always Write Back, is the true story of a friendship that developed between Caitlin, a seventh-grade white girl in Pennsylvania, and Martin, an African teenager living in Zimbabwe. As they exchange letters over the course of six years, they discover similarities (the universal truth that teenagers find themselves at odds with parents is seen several times) as well as differences that change their view on the world. This unit focused on the idea of perspective, which is an IB MYP concept explored throughout the sophomore year.

The junior selection, Left to Tell, is a memoir of the Rwandan Holocaust told by Immaculee Ilibagiza. It is the incredible story of the author’s faith and resilience during unfathomable suffering and cruelty. As the junior core value is service, teachers led the students in making the connection between giving selflessly to others and allowing our faith to guide our beliefs of social justice. They hope to partner with our Ursuline Sisters to hear stories of how their faith has called them to a life of service to marginalized communities both locally and abroad.

The senior selection, Just Mercy, is a deep dive into America’s justice system as told by Bryan Stevenson, who has worked for justice reform for almost twenty years. Though the selection was made in early March 2020, this text took on a deeper meaning as the calls to dismantle the systems of oppression for people of color in the country grew louder. To this end, the English Department engaged in reading and discussion guided by NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) on best practices to address issues of race within the classroom. They also hope to engage in discussion with our many SHA alumnae who serve as judges within the state of Kentucky to learn more of their call to serve in the field of law and justice.



Freshmen English students discussed the big idea that “Inequality resulting from discrimination can be overcome when people make connections” as they read Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. OMM deals with all kinds of discrimination, one being ableism. Audrey Devine and her students from the Oldham County Young Adult Transition Program visited and demonstrated how we are all the same, regardless of our abilities. Inclusions and connections can change the world.