In early December, five upper division Stevenson students attended the National Association of Independent Schools’ Online Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC)—a multiracial and multicultural event for student leaders in grades 9 to 12 that aims to help foster allyship, encourage self-reflection, and build community among high school students. Usually, the conference happens in person; however, due to COVID-19, the conference happened virtually this year and online group sessions were led by a team of trained adult and peer facilitators.
Students participated in a range of activities that were designed to help them learn the foundations of allyship and networking, and to prepare them to lead relevant dialogues among their peers. At SDLC, Pirates attended large meetings and seminars with all participants. They were also assigned to smaller “family” and “home” groups, which allowed them to bond more closely with peers from other schools and to participate in more conversational, in-depth dialogue.
Xitali Zuniga-Gross ‘21 attended SDLC with four schoolmates this year and she described her experience at the conference as both meaningful and enjoyable. She explained, “I think one of the biggest impressions that this conference made on me was something I heard repeated throughout the conference: students repeatedly remarked how spaces like this one, where everyone was accepting and willing to listen and learn despite our differences, were rare...I learned a lot about how to support others but I think more than that I was reassured that the work we are doing at Stevenson is worth it and needed. It was a grounding and encouraging feeling.”
At the same time as students attended SDLC virtually, 14 upper division and two Lower/Middle Division faculty members attended the NAIS People of Color Conference—PoCC. PoCC promotes equity and justice in teaching and learning. The aim of the conference is to provide an opportunity for leadership, professional development, and networking for People of Color and allies of all backgrounds who are involved in independent schools.
Faculty at every level are invited to attend PoCC, and they get the chance to participate in a myriad of workshops, seminars, and networking events that are focused on equipping them as leaders to improve the “interracial, interethnic, and intercultural climate” at their schools—both for educators and their students. This was also the first year that PoCC was held online and, despite its virtual nature, faculty attendees said that they got a lot out of their experience.
Dr. Mashadi Matabane, Stevenson’s director of equity and inclusion and upper division history teacher, writes:
PoCC is like a big family reunion/networking bonanza/community town hall! It is such an empowering and inspiring experience for those of us who are one of the few BIPOC on the job in our respective schools. It can be invigorating and eye-opening for white people to attend, because they temporarily experience what it is like to not be the majority and not be at the center of things, and can enjoy the invitation to listen and learn. I think my colleagues had a fabulous time: reading, listening, watching, and talking through what we experienced together. I vibe off of collaboration, compassion, and connection and love seeing everyone so amped up, ready to roll, and make moves for and with our students!