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The Student Newspaper of Hopkins School

Local Schools Gather at Hopkins for Student Diversity Conference

Anya Mahajan ’25 News Editor
“If we want a just society, then we must stop wanting an opponent.” With this line, Terrell Tolson ’26 kicked off the 20th annual Connecticut Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC), where students from independent schools across the state congregated in the Walter Camp Athletic Center to learn about diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. 
The conference made Hopkins history, as it was the first to be hosted by the school. Hopkins Director of Equity and Community Rebecca Harper, one of the event’s lead facilitators, shared her excitement at the prospect: “Hosting this event at Hopkins is a wonderful opportunity for the school to support diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) work beyond our campus and immediate community.”

Tolson was one of two keynote speakers, along with Lila Kus ’26, that introduced the attendees to this year’s SDLC theme, “Stronger Together.” Grade-wide sessions nearly seven hours in length followed the speeches, consisting of professional-led group activities and collaborative brainstorming exercises. 

With over 300 students in attendance, the conference encouraged students to develop their cross-cultural communication skills. Tolson said, “I was able to meet a lot of unique people from different schools...and there was so much history and stories these people had that you wouldn't have known if you didn’t sit down and talk to them.” Lena O’Malley ’25 shared this sentiment: “It was so nice to not only get to meet a ton of different new people, but have genuine discussions with other people my age about daily issues that we all faced.” O’Malley also appreciated the conference’s ability to help students form connections through uncomfortable situations: “It was really nice because it forced [us] to interact with people who are outside of our school or people in our school that we had never talked to and I ended up meeting some pretty amazing people.” 

The Connecticut SDLC is part of the nationwide SDLC, which was hosted this past November in San Antonio, Texas. A record number of 7,800 high school students were in attendance, all dedicated to the pursuit of effective strategies for the practice of social justice both in and out of the classroom. Isabel Pizarro ’24, one of the students who went on the trip, described the event, “We were randomly placed in small groups and had conversations about topics ranging from affording food or books for school to how to host events to encourage more students to engage with affinity and culture groups at their schools.” 
The passion and drive that students had for these issues, according to Pizarro, was clear: “You could tell everyone wanted to be there.” Ishani Vallabhajosyula ‘24, who also attended the San Antonio conference, echoed Pizarro’s statement: “It was really special and inspiring to be in a room with so many student leaders who share a common identity and goal.”

Being in these environments brought the Hopkins attendees to reflect on the school’s treatment of DEIJ. Pizarro said, “Hearing people’s experiences at different schools and in different communities really made me aware of how much of an effort Hopkins has made to create a welcoming space for students to connect and relate to one another.” Vallabhajosyula agreed, saying that the school is doing “a really fantastic job with our diversity and equity programs. We have a lot of groups focused on these issues, and our active efforts to improve are commendable and impressive.”

Since not all independent schools are given the opportunity to attend the nationwide SDLC, Vallabhajosyula stressed the significance of hosting the Connecticut conference and making use of Hopkins’ resources “to help the schools around us.” Vallabhajosyula said, “I think it is really important that we take what we have learned from these conferences and share it with our local community.”
Hopkins attendees encouraged students of different backgrounds to participate in future discussions regarding DEIJ. O’Malley recognized that she “might never experience the same types of problems that [SDLC attendees] go through…but the conference led me to think that even though we may not necessarily be affected by certain issues, it doesn’t mean that we should not do our best to learn about them and be exposed to them.” As Tolson said in the end of his keynote address, “Change is made in community, not isolation.” 
Editor in Chief 
Rose Robertson

Managing Editor 
Hanna Jennings

Sophie Denny
Eli Ratner
Anya Mahajan
Claire Billings
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