DEI Day: Crossing Borders with Mr. Serrato

Lue Fang ’25

During Peddie’s Winter DEI Day, students crossed borders in their understanding of culture during a 50-minute workshop with Honors Chemistry teacher Mr. Serrato that focused on ethnicity and nationality.

Mr. Serrato incorporated various mediums, including research quotations, documentary clips from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), statistics, diagrams and charts to stimulate discussion and reflection.

Sean Li ’25 was particularly struck by the graphic video clips about migration routes that Mr. Serrato showed the group of around 10. “What stuck with me was the difficulty and pain that many migrants have to face when leaving or fleeing their own countries, which many of us do not fully comprehend,” he said, referring to the recent migrant caravans trekking from Central America through the Darien Gap, an extremely dangerous and deadly sixty-mile-plus crossing on the border between Columbia and Panama, on the way to the United States.

These images were exactly what Mr. Serrato wanted to convey to galvanize his audience, even if they were disturbing. His own experiences “growing up in a large city such as Mexico City allowed [him] to interact with people from very diverse backgrounds.” He added, “Mexico City receives a large number of immigrants every year. Many of them come to the city with hopes of getting a better shot in life – whether that means a better job opportunity, access to a better education, or simply finding the means to survive. There are those who succeed in their endeavors, those who are forced back to their country of origin and those who face ruthless consequences.”

Mr. Serrato said, “I was troubled by inequality as a young person, and I still am. That’s what motivates me to try to make things a little better.”

Migration is not limited to those fleeing from war or political instability. Mr. Serrato emphasized the multitude of reasons a person might leave their home by asking each student where they were from and why they wished to study at Peddie. He shared an intricate, circular, and tapestry-like chart illustrating the movement of people from around the world. He urged his students to realize the beauty of our shared differences, and how the graph encompasses cultural diversity in a very wonderful manner.

From the moral dilemmas of migration to a shared human experience of seeking better opportunities, Mr. Serrato steered the group discussion towards the cultural melting pot, or salad bowl, churning and bubbling right here at Peddie. In his final slide, he prompted the class to respond to one of many questions through a written paragraph, all related to the relinquishing, preserving and sharing of culture when students arrive at Peddie. Li reflected by saying, “Everybody has to adjust when they come to a new place, and that can be either from spreading your own culture or adapting and assimilating into the new culture you have been plunged into … since Peddie is a boarding school, people come from all over the world bringing their own separate cultures that we often show each other in our daily lives. Sometimes, people will relinquish their own cultures in order to fit into Peddie, especially traditions that could be viewed as ‘strange’ in America.”

Mr. Serrato concluded by offering similar words coming from his own perspective. “On one hand, I think Peddie is a warm and welcoming community with great and curious people who are eager to learn from and care for one another. In that sense, I think Peddie invites people from underrepresented groups to bring their whole personas and share their culture and traditions with everyone as a way to enrich our community. But going all out while coming from an underrepresented group is not easy. We tend to adapt to the culture and traditions that are in place in an effort to ‘belong’ to the community that we admire. And this comes with a cost, because there are aspects of our persona that are not present in that community, so we gather those parts and put them in a container box so we can wear our disguise better.”

Mr. Serrato also said, “ I believe that we can do more as a collective and as individuals to intentionally build a sense of belonging for every member of our community, regardless of their cultural background.”

When asked whether he would run this workshop again in the future, Mr. Serrato replied, “Absolutely, I enjoyed every aspect of it, and students were fantastic when it came to engaging in meaningful conversations.”