The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

School hosts annual Pollyanna conference

Printed with permission of Janine Jones

The school hosted 30 different middle and high schools from around the Greater Los Angeles (LA) area for the seventh annual Pollyanna Conference on Oct. 21. The school brought in Reverend Natosha Reid Rice to speak, along with workshops and student presentations with the goal of helping schools improve their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs.

Assistant Director of DEI Jessica McKay said she was moved by the experiences shared by students who spoke at the conference.

“I was blown away by the students’ courage to share such deep and painful experiences of hate that they’ve had at their institutions,” McKay said. “I think what really resonated with me was how these incidents of hate are expressed under the guise of jokes. It happens all the time in our society. Someone may say something in a joking way and therefore think the offense is not that bad. But the hate is very real and, as evident in the stories these students were sharing, is long-lasting and deep.”

DEI Coordinator and Middle School Dean Jonathan Carroll said the large number of schools in attendance at the conference reflects an increase in interest in DEI.

“The increasing diversity, particularly in the Head of School position at schools across LA enriches the conversation around DEI and helps school leaders live up to their mission of fostering diverse and inclusive communities,” Carroll said. “The desire to be in community and form networks to combat forces that would divide school communities is as high as ever and the attendance this year proved as such”

Nilufer Mistry-Sheasby ’24 said she was proud to see the school’s progress in combating hate inside and outside of the school community.

“I felt an overwhelming sense of pride and appreciation for the community in the administration [and] Harvard-Westlake,” Mistry-Sheasby said. “The conference was centered around the idea of thoughtfully combating hate. I think that a lot of schools, similarly to Harvard-Westlake, have struggled to respond to instances and hate in our community or instances of hate around the world. So a huge part [of the conference] was how do we figure out how to respond to those things like when there are global crises that are affecting a large portion of our community?’”

Carroll said the DEI team is constantly looking for improvements to the yearly Pollyanna conference.

“For next year, we will come up with a new theme,” Carroll said. “We are always looking for something timely. The speaker format will likely be the same. We may tinker with the format of the school pod session in the afternoon to make sure schools are actually leaving with action items for their communities.”

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