Six students and five faculty members from Shady Side Academy Senior School attended the National Association of Independent Schools' (NAIS) 25th annual Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) and People of Color Conference (PoCC) in Nashville, Tenn. Nov. 28-Dec. 1.
This year's conferences, which run concurrently, focused on exploring "equitable schools and inclusive communities: harmony, discord and the notes in between." In an effort to facilitate meaningful discussion, students were held to SDLC community norms like leaning in to discomfort and speaking from the "I" perspective. Seniors Lucie Green and Daeja Sanders and sophomores Gabi Jegasothy, Charlotte McDaniel, Eliyah Roberts and Paige Shea were actively engaged in open discussions pertaining to the eight cultural identifiers: race, family structure, socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion and ability.
At SDLC, students felt a unique sense of community among its 1,600 student participants which enabled them to have real and honest conversations. Students came to understand the truth about how having certain privileges affords them the opportunity to not think about the challenges others face.
In reflecting on her experience, one student noted that SDLC "was an oasis of love and acceptance that empowers and teaches students so much about not only themselves but also their communities. I have never felt so much trust, love, and acceptance among people my age, which made me feel more comfortable being vulnerable."
Another student noted that they learned that to bring about change you need to learn about the intimate nature of empathy and compassion. By being vulnerable, compassionate and empathetic, our students returned empowered and passionate about creating a more inclusive community.
The students were accompanied by faculty members Pam Boehm, Karen DiFiore, Tami Fire and Creighton Runnette, and staff member Lillian Grate.