By Lauren McDonald

College of Coastal Georgia instituted a new tradition this week that aims to continue the college's efforts to promote inclusivity on campus.

CCGA's student government association hosted Monday the college's inaugural Unity Day, an event that highlighted the importance of working together despite differences.

"Our mission today is to reflect and challenge and celebrate, reflect on our history and changes that have been made that we at Coastal Georgia have put into place to help promote and foster a united community," said Kayla Markey, SGA's director of inclusion.

Kelsey Rios, SGA president, worked with college administrators last year to create two new cabinet positions within the student government. Those positions — a director of diversity and a director inclusion — fit well into a larger effort at the college to increase the focus on inclusivity on campus.

The college established an Office of Diversity Initiatives in 2020 and brought Quinton Staples on board as the first director of diversity of initiatives. CCGA President Michelle Johnston also established last year a president's commission on diversity and inclusion, to create and sustain policies and practices that promote a more diverse and inclusive campus community.

The idea for an annual Unity Day celebration every April on the college campus was formed through early discussions with the new SGA cabinet members, Rios said.

"We have seen the need from our students and our community and have created an intentional and foundational event to support a continual conversation of what unity means and how we will continually speak up for it," she said. "We will continue to advocate for our students, and we embody advocacy today and every day."

The new event will be part of the current SGA's legacy on campus, Johnston said.

"I know that we're making history today," she said. "It's another marker on a path that we've been blazing, and that path can be characterized by the three words that have been associated with this Unity Day — reflect, challenge, celebrate."

The college is a local leader that can guide transformation across the community, said Rev. Abra Lattany-Reed, a board member of the CCGA Foundation, who was one of several speakers at the event.

"This institution carries a reflective vision of this community, not just what is needed or desired within this community but as a unifying force of what this community could be because ultimately every member of this community is their student," she said.

Unity highlights shared values, she said.

"Like many communities, we are not without challenge," said Lattany-Reed, a CCGA alumna. "All of us are aware of the things that have taken place in our beloved Brunswick and Golden Isles. And yet today, our institution, the College of Coastal Georgia, the steward of transformation in our community, is doing still yet the work to ensure that we have a great and bright future. Let's celebrate that."

The most powerful brand of unity is to be bonded around a single purpose, Staples said.

"A day like this reflects our commitment to come together, all the different parts, no matter our age, our experiences, our gender, our race, our background, our abilities," he said. "Everything that we bring to the table can work together to make a more just, inclusive and equitable world."


Republished with the permission of the Brunswick News. Originally published in the Brunswick News.