The People of Color Conference (PoCC) for faculty and staff and the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) for students, sponsored by the National Association for Independent Schools (NAIS), brought nearly 6,000 attendees to Anaheim, CA, November 30-December 2. Among them were students, faculty, and staff from D-E who were excited to explore this year’s theme, “Voices for Equity and Justice Now and in Every Generation: Lead, Learn, Rededicate, and Deliver.” Each year D-E participates in these conferences with the intent of empowering participants to improve and enhance the interracial, interethnic, and intercultural community at D-E.
…I left with so much self-love and appreciation for not only the people around me but also for myself.
SDLC attendee India Marseille ’20 explains that students were divided into “family groups” of 35-50 students who spent a great deal of time together. “In these groups we discussed problems we had at school and how to handle them in serious and creative ways,” she says. “These conversations caused us to build a bond with one another that is simply indescribable. The connection that I have with these other students can’t be broken, not even by the thousands of miles between some of us.”
Students also spent time in affinity groups. “I attended the black affinity group both days,” says India. “Being in a room with 600 other black students is something I had never gotten to experience before, and it made me even more grateful for the opportunity to attend such an extraordinary conference. SDLC changed my life for the better. I left with so much self-love and appreciation for not only the people around me but also for myself.”
Kenneth Yan ’19, another student participant, says that trust is the key to fruitful discussion. “Over the course of three days I bonded with other people over common experiences and reflected upon the great diversity of stories and beliefs that I came into contact with,” he says. “The openness with which everyone was willing to share their stories was astounding; there was an aura of trust and understanding that was present in the room, and our discussions were thoughtful and passionate.”
Kenneth believes that what he witnessed at the conference will translate into action on the D-E campus. “From SDLC, I have seen that with a supportive and open environment, honest and powerful discussion is more than possible. I have seen from the Asian Affinity group and my family group at SDLC the passion, strength, and intelligence that students bring to difficult discussions,” he says. “I have seen people shed their ignorance, question their own opinions, learn and ask questions with great honesty. It is my goal and my duty to better facilitate these discussions on the Dwight-Englewood campus. In the new year, I plan to reorganize and promote the newly founded Asian Affinity group for Dwight-Englewood students and to work with my peers, teachers, and school administration to promote better student-faculty discussion and collaboration regarding diversity issues.”