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Student Diversity Leadership Conference 2014

Miriam M. (’16), Jessa N. (’15), and Morgan M.  (’16) with a conference director. Photo credit: Kate Kordich

From December 3rd through 6th, three students and three faculty chaperones represented College Prep at the National Association of Independent School’s (NAIS) Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) in Indianapolis, Indiana. Every year since the first conference was hosted in 2003 in Honolulu, students have gathered in different locations around the US to discuss and tackle issues regarding diversity and discrimination with a focus on self-reflection and community building. I got the chance to speak with senior Jessa N. about her experience representing Prep at SDLC:

Can you tell me about SDLC and the purpose of the conference?

It’s a group of 1,620 students and this year was the biggest that it’s ever been. Students from all around the nation come and gather together in a city, which changes every year. The idea is that you bring these people together who are passionate about diversity issues so that they can go back to their communities and schools to promote these ideals. You had three different groups throughout the conference: a family group, affinity [race, LGBTQ] group, and regional group; in each session, you discussed how to bring back what you learned to your respective school.

The conference was focused on eight areas, though it was mostly focused on race.

There was a lot of discussion about Ferguson and Eric Garner; together, we took a giant “hands up, don’t shoot” picture. Additionally, the keynote speaker for SDLC was Cheryl Brown Henderson, the daughter of Oliver Brown (from Brown v. Board of Education).

What was the highlight of your experience?

I would say definitely taking the picture…also, getting to meet people that care about similar things from all around the country. The passion and support that was there was incredible; there was an open mic session where people told very personal stories about issues like sexual abuse, and there was so much support in the room. People would hold up ‘I love you’ in sign language.

What was the most challenging aspect?

I think the most challenging aspect is going back to your old school. Because you’ve been living in this environment with such a deep level of sharing, it’s hard to go back to this academic environment. You have to try to apply this level of compassion, and try to find ways to make people care about these issues in an environment where people don’t necessarily [care].

Has the conference changed your views regarding the role of diversity in communities like CPS?

I think we do have a lot of discussions about these issues, like gender and sexual issues, but we have fewer discussions regarding race and socioeconomic class. I think we have to have difficult conversations to make this type of progress.

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