What happens when 1,600 student leaders from the U.S. and abroad gather to discuss identity and social justice? Hear from five Convent & Stuart Hall high school students who found out.
When five high school students sat down at 11:30 p.m. to reflect on a 15-hour day at the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) in Nashville, TN, they were tired yet excited.
"It really opened my mind to the way I perceive life and the way I understand where people are coming from and their different experiences," said Sean Mendiola, a junior at Stuart Hall.
The students were among 1,600 student leaders from around the U.S. and abroad who gathered to focus on "self-reflecting, forming allies, and building community," according to the event website. Held in conjunction with the People of Color Conference (PoCC), which six faculty and staff from the school attended, SDLC provided an intense and engaging setting for exploring identity, equity and social justice.
Students reflect on their experience at SDLC.
Over two-and-a-half days, students engaged in dialogue in "family groups" and self-selected affinity groups based on race, sexual orientation and geographic location. "I trust everyone here a lot, which has allowed me to be very vulnerable," said junior Henry Sears.
Led by trained adult and peer facilitators, students attended workshops and lectures designed to help develop effective cross-cultural communication and leadership skills. "When you're trying to express concepts that you don't know how to name, it is very difficult to make another person understand your experience," said Convent junior Malinalli Cervantes."I wanted to better navigate my own identity in a school where not everyone looks like me."
The site of the first campaigns to desegregate lunch counters.
Students, selected to attend as part of an application process, left the conference with strategies to support discussions on campus. "I want to make people more comfortable in our school environment," said junior Tara Boyd. Trevor Blanc, a senior and second-time participant, noted that "Identity is something all students should really find before they go to college — to get a sense for who they are, what they stand for and what they believe."
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