Hopkins Students Attend Student Diversity Leadership Conference
On April 7, 24 Hopkins students attended the Regional Student Leadership Diversity Conference (SDLC) at St. Luke’s School in New Canaan.
The theme of the conference was ‘Ripples of Change,’ which focused on self love and love in communities. Ten of the 24 students were facilitators who helped run the Middle and High School 101 workshops.
Students went to breakout groups, which included the Middle School and High School 101 workshops, High School 201, and the Senior Group. Awareness of personal identity is important. “Understanding identity and how it affects who we are, what we do and our experiences help break down a lot of those nuances,” said Becky Harper, Director of Equity and Community, who attended the conference. The goal of the workshops was also for students to have the opportunity to learn more about how to shape identity in both individuals and the communities in which they live or attend school. Ranease Brown ’21 commented, “at SDLC we teach students how to be leaders. To be a leader, you need to talk to adults at your school...you can only go so far talking to your peers. The next step students have to take is using their voice as a teenager at school to speak to the people who teach you. The main message we try to send is to speak up.”
In Middle School 101, there was a discussion about differences and similarities of identity. Sciana Vertusma ’23 said the most important thing she learned was, “everybody has something they’re struggling or succeeding with.” Maya Rose Chiravuri ’23 learned about many types of identity. “I learned about the different types of diversity and that we can find in race, religion, gender, sexuality, age, ability, family structure, socioeconomic status and more,” she stated The students brought up and shared ideas on how to solve issues people face in communities. “We discussed the role that diversity plays in our lives and what types of diversity are the hardest to deal [with] and talk about,” Chiravuri commented.
In the High School 201 conference, specifically meant for returning high schoolers, there was a discussion surrounding intersectionality. When talking of intersectionality, Savan Parikh ’23 described it as an “interlocking of various social categorizations to form discrimination.” “The notion of ‘intersectionality’ shows that it is possible for humans to discriminate others based on them fitting multiple disadvantaged social categorizations.” In the 201 sessions, Parikh learned about identity in the context of society: “It’s important to understand and learn from everyone else’s experience so that we can work towards a world in which all are treated with equal respect.”
Some Hopkins students facilitated workshops. This was Liz Bamgboye's '20 first time as a facilitator. “I loved helping participants push themselves beyond their comfort zones and learn more about themselves and others. It’s exciting to be in a position to foster meaningful conversation and create a space in which breakthroughs can happen,” she said. Being educated on different subjects of diversity and identity were also important in leading discussion was important for Brown. Brown facilitated High School and Middle School 101 discussions and is a member of the Diversity Board at Hopkins. “In order for me to be a facilitator, I take it very seriously to make sure I know what I’m talking about, I know how I feel about certain things so that way I can spread what I know, and more to kids who are younger and older than me,” she said.
Many students met new people at the conference with who they connected. Sierra Walters '24 said, “because I made so many connections with so many people… I left the conference feeling like I had connected to some of my peers and that I had known them a lot longer than a day.” Bamgboye commented, “Every SDLC I learn how to be a better leader and listener. I’m also able to widen my network by meeting students from all over the state.” Brown also talked about how integration in schools is important. She said, “The creation of spaces for people who identify as a certain way to speak about the causes they want without the fear of judgment.”
Learning about and solving issues in communities also inspired Bamgboye. She explained “activism takes many forms. It involves addressing the issues that plague our community, discussing methods of action and carrying them out.”
Many students found the new conference a learning experience that introduced new ideas of diversity: “This conference opened up my eyes to the value of diversity and the importance of respecting it,” Chiravuri stated. Vertusma put it simply: “Overall I had a really great time and I learned more about diversity and to appreciate everyone. After everything, we’re all just human beings who want change and equality!"