In an effort to encourage cross-cultural collaboration and develop their leadership skills, middle and upper school affinity group leaders convened during the inaugural Student Leadership in Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Conference at the Middle School on May 22.
To begin the conference, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Janine Jones gave a speech empowering affinity group leaders to take action against adversity. Students then broke into smaller workshops and shared their cultural backgrounds with their peers.
“The purpose of [the SLIDE Conference] is primarily to unite affinity groups and encourage interrelations between them,” Asia Students in Action President Lucy Kim ’19 said. “A problem that we wanted to focus on as administrators and students is that there is very little communication between affinity groups, and this conference is one way to get people who are involved in these activities to talk about their identities.”
During the student-led workshops, club leaders analyzed the intersections between race, gender and socioeconomic status and discussed ways they could foster a more inclusive environment at school.
Student Diversity Leadership Conference and People of Color Conference representative and Black Leadership, Awareness and Culture Club member Sam Lingard ’19 led an activity called Game of Life, where students were given a fixed income and a set number of social credits. Participants made decisions that determined their socioeconomic status, allowing them to recognize the link between economic privilege and social standing.
“Sometimes at school, because there are a lot of kids on the higher end of the [socioeconomic] spectrum, it’s easy to forget that we do have this [type of] diversity because it’s not visible always,” Lingard said.
Middle School Coordinator of DEI and English teacher Damaris Saenz said she hoped members of affinity groups would use the knowledge they gained from their fellow club leaders to benefit their communities.
“For a middle schooler especially, it might be very different to identify with an affinity group and say, ‘you know what, I’m part of [Asian-American Cultural Club] or [Latin American and Hispanic Student Organization] or [Gender and Sexuality Awareness Club],’” Saenz said. “What we want to do is equip our leaders to be able to create a space where students are comfortable coming in and feel like there’s a space for them.”