Vincent Cipollone
“The results couldn’t have
been more enriching,” says
Vincent Cipollone, after
participating in diversity
activities at a primary school.
Vincent Cipollone
“The results couldn’t have
been more enriching,” says
Vincent Cipollone, after
participating in diversity
activities at a primary school.

Part fourteen in a series. “Voices of IBM Volunteers” is part of the All Things STEM to reach millions of young people through volunteering and interactive activities.

Digital literacy is the primary objective of All Things STEM. Yet it is known that well-rounded young people with perspective, imagination and curiosity—inspired by passionate role models—can make the most of STEM opportunities in the future.

In the series, IBM volunteers share their passion and perspective, in their own words, on what it means to be a volunteer and the positive impact we can all have on society.


IBM volunteer: Vincent Cipollone, IBM Corporate Development Executive

"Everyone is human and deserves to be treated the same."

It’s widely recognised that children see the world purely. Of not letting biases stand in the way of saying what they think and feel.

As such, these simple and strong words written by a 9-year old captured my heart. They reinforced the reason why I’d volunteered to become a Diversity Role Model (DRM) facilitator for primary school children. This single statement being just one of many similarly wonderful examples; their collective words made it real.

In the past, I’ve led global teams on complex and challenging projects and facilitated numerous courses for IBM professionals. Leading large group discussions is an activity I’ve learned to enjoy.

But eight- and nine-year olds? Thirty ‘Year 4’ students at a time? Brand new territory for me, for sure, despite having some experience raising two wonderful boys. Now, nearly men themselves.

Back to school
In June 2018, I arrived at Coleridge Primary School in North London not quite knowing what to expect.

Together with a DRM professional, I knew I was there to introduce children to different types of families, with an emphasis on LGBT+ families. Our success measured by the children understanding and using new vocabulary, by recognising that families are different and by challenging stereotypes.

But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine just how tuned in these enlightened youngsters were.

We started each lesson with a game called “The Sun Shines On…” It’s a simple activity where we ask the children to trade places with each other when what is said applies to them.

After several rounds, we got to the crux of our lesson and declared, “The sun shines on anyone who knows someone with two mummys or daddies!”

Both Jac (my co-facilitator) and I started to move when we heard one young lad shout, “Kyle!”

With arms in the air, everyone jumped up and down in a frenzy to switch places with someone else. The concept of LGBT+ was clearly not new news in this young classroom as everyone knew Kyle—a “famous” classmate with two daddies.

Inspiration
My biggest surprise, however, came after I shared my personal story with the class, using pictures of my family as a storyboard.

After I finished, the class was encouraged to ask me questions. And they did. Fast and furious they came from all directions, including a question I’m regularly asked, “What’s your favourite book?”

Having been asked the same question in preparation for a recent corporate development workshop and having also just noticed a book lying in front of one young girl, I quickly replied, “In fact, it’s the same book you’re reading, except in Spanish. Huevos Verdes Con Jamon.”

The little girl’s eyes opened wide, as her grin stretched from ear to ear. Only later did I fully realise the impact I’d had.

The teacher and assistant both expressed to me afterwards, “She’s been having real trouble reading, except for Green Eggs and Ham, which she carries with her everywhere. Your response just completely made her day.”

I was there to help foster greater understanding, acceptance and celebration of LGBT+ families. But my greatest impact seems to have been totally unrelated. Clear inspiration for me to do more.

As a finance professional with a desire to help drive positive change in the world, I’d hoped that I could influence and inspire others of the younger generation to embrace diversity and inclusion.

For me, the results couldn’t have been more enriching.

And as an IBMer, I’m incredibly proud that our organisation supports these types of volunteering activities. They provide the balance to our intense work lives, and – with any luck – will endure far beyond when we finally bid ‘adieu’ to our own IBM family.

After all, isn’t that what life’s all about?

IBM employees can access the original version of Vincent’s blog post, which includes more photos.

Resources

Celebrating Cultural Diversity - IBM activity kit to help young students better understand the importance of accepting differences in themselves and others — and celebrating those differences.

Teaching Respect – IBM activity kit to help young people reflect on their own identities and appreciate the importance of differences among people.

Let's Talk About Cyber-Bullying - IBM activity kit that helps parents and students think about cyberbullying and how it can be prevented and addressed.


For over 100 years, IBMers have created positive change in the world through their day-to-day work and their service in local communities. Since 2004, over 300,000 IBM employees and retirees have contributed nearly 22 million hours of volunteer service.

Join the conversation. Tag your tweets with #IBMVolunteers, #All Things STEM and follow us @IBMVolunteers.


About these stories

Read about IBMers whose volunteer efforts are improving communities around the world.


Activity Kits

IBM’s volunteer Activity Kits include everything you need for a range of activities.