by Saba Nia ’19
Students and faculty members from both campuses attended the National Association of Independent School’s People of Color Conference on Dec. 3-5 at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla. The event, which was comprised of two separate conferences – the NAIS PoC Conference and the Student Diversity Leadership Conference – featured keynote speakers, workshops and dialogue sessions.
The conference was open to all members of the faculty and six members of the high school student body. The school sent 20 attendees to the conference – 14 adults and six students, the largest number to date. The surge of participants was not due to any school-related event, according to the adult attendees, but a result of the administration’s focus to provide teachers and students with the tools to make the school an even more diverse and inclusive community.
“I think that [School President Rick Commons] is really committed to this work. We have a new mission statement, and now [it] is coming to life,” Director of Bookstore Operations, chaperone and long-time attendee Tina Cleveland said.
Participants learned how to deal with issues regarding race, religion, sexuality and ethnicity. They listened and spoke to other members in their affinity group, groups that split up attendees by race or desired involvement in the conference and discussed their newly-gained knowledge with their regional group or conference members from their school.
“It was so interesting meeting people who also had the same racial background and other backgrounds and understanding what it meant to be able to empathize with them. Now, I am more open and hopefully, I can be more accommodating to people of other ethnicities,” student representative Ryan Stanford ’19 said.
Many teachers believe that the experience has made them better equipped to handle issues of diversity and race on campus. Though they would like to see the school be more inclusive of different and unconventional voices and opinions, the teachers and students are hopeful and confident that these changes can be implemented.
“We have our affinity groups and our student-run clubs, but let’s figure out ways to bond together across the different ethnicities so that they really make a strong, lobbying force,” seventh grade dean Jon Carroll said.