Students, educators, and community leaders come from around the country to attend the annual NAIS People of Color Conference (PoCC) and Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC). This year’s conference was no different. The streets of Seattle were buzzing with more than 7,000 attendees (1,600 of whom were high school students) who were ready to engage. PoCC focused on “1619. 2019. Before. Beyond. Amplifying Our Intelligence to Liberate, Co-Create, and Thrive,” while SDLC’s theme was “1954. 2019. With All Deliberate Speed. Integrating School Minds and Hearts with the Fierce Urgency of Now.”
PoCC and SDLC provide opportunities for individuals to expand their thinking and training in the equity, inclusion, and justice realm. The conference creates space for building valuable connections that enable people to strengthen the work taking place at their schools. It enables institutions to connect with like-minded programs and remain current with what’s happening across the globe. I attended, along with six student representatives, Head of School Dr. Mike Davis, faculty from all three divisions, and an admission officer.
Our experience started with a keynote address from Joy DeGruy, the author of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing. Her speech highlighted usually untold stories in history. For example, did you know the Statue of Liberty was holding broken chains in the original plans for the structure? Although the plans were altered before construction, history has since been amended, with broken chains being placed at the bottom of the statue’s left foot. The original planned design was a gift from France to highlight the abolition of slavery.
Students find others ‘who get it’
After the conclusion of the opening keynote, Colorado Academy Seniors Nancy Ramirez, Amalia Lopez, Brian Labra, Junior Hannah Krueger, and Sophomores Nico Watters and Cole Siegler joined the other high school students at SDLC for a series of student-centered workshops. They participated in race-based affinity groups, multidimensional family groups, and state meetings. Amalia shares, “It was impactful to be at SDLC and talk to people who get it. There are 7,000 people out there fighting the same fight.”
The students were surprised by the deep relationships they were able to foster in just a matter of three days. They were all moved by the SDLC closing keynote, Schuyler Bailar, the first transgender athlete to compete in any sport on an NCAA Division I men’s team. Schuyler served as a reminder for high school students to continue to foster conversation amongst one another, to not make assumptions, and to take action at their schools. Our students are excited to take action through causes like PlatFORUM, and they have brainstormed some exciting workshops for April 2.
Looking forward to PlatFORUM
Pedro A. Noguera, a Distinguished Professor of Education, closed the conference by challenging educators and community members to reimagine schools. He asked, “Do we limit ourselves by our thinking about what’s possible?” He reminded us that each school has its unique journey through equity and justice work, but it’s important to acknowledge the progress.
Attending PoCC always leaves me feeling inspired, and each year I’m in awe of the transformations and journey of the high school students. I look forward to our channeling the energy of SDLC during this year’s PlatFORUM. All students can apply now to lead a PlatFORUM workshop for April 2, 2020, and will have the opportunity to apply for 2020 SDLC in the Spring.