Diversity conference remembers Carr ’14, parents deliver closing ceremony address

Sophie Kupiec-Weglinski

Justin Carr ’14, former South Africa President Nelson Mandela and others were remembered Dec. 5-7 at the National Association of Independent Schools Student Diversity and Leadership conference in National Harbor, Md. Carr’s parents, Susan and Darrell were invited to address the 1,400 students at the closing ceremony. The theme was “Honoring the Past.”

Carr’s parents showcased their son’s artwork, discussed his quest for world peace and spoke about who their son was. Last year, Carr attended the SDLC with director of bookstore operations Tina Cleveland, Zita Biosah ’14, Mazelle Etessami ’14, Alexis Ladge ’15 and Malanna Wheat ’14.

“Justin came back energized and said that the conference changed his life, and he met so many great kids from all over the United States who attend private schools,” Susan said.

During the summer, Susan found Carr’s writings about the conference when browsing on his computer and was inspired to contact conference organizers.

“Attending the Student Diversity and Leadership Conference in Houston, Texas, was one of the greatest experiences in my life,” Carr had  written. “I always thought that I was a very open and accepting person and that this program wouldn’t teach me anything or help me grow, but I was so wrong. Everyone has prejudices that are subconscious, and I wasn’t aware of mine until I came to this program.”

Susan sent an email to the program’s committee about how much the experience meant to her son, along with a photo of Carr with African American astronaut Bernard Harris, whom he met at the conference. Collinus Newsome, one of the planners, replied that she remembered Justin and took that picture of him with the astronaut.

“She said she remembered him out of the 1,200 students who attended because he was polite and patiently waited and let everyone go ahead of him so that he could be the last one with Dr. Harris,” Susan said. “Justin was looking into the possibility of Dr. Harris being the guest speaker for the BLACC Black History Month Celebration.”

Subsequently, Susan and her husband were invited to address the conference.

“The kids came up to the mic and voiced how in just a few short days, they have changed for the better,” Susan said.