How is this Conference different from other diversity conferences you’ve attended?
Being part of the Dalton POD is unlike anything I’ve experienced at other conferences. Having people from all the different roles from within the Dalton community listening and participating in the POD is unique. Basically the students are facilitating the discussion, which provides them a platform to talk openly about diversity, equity and inclusion with all these different constituents.
What was the experience like for the students during your morning session together?
There was a great group of kids from a wide range of schools. It was interesting to hear how all the schools handle diversity, equity and inclusion. While there are differences, we discovered the common thread is that a disconnect lies between students and administration, especially in the younger grades. Also raised was the fact that there are a bunch of affinity groups and they too are disconnected. There isn’t one place to go to have a conversation. That was why having us talk about it together at this session was so helpful. And, every year we discuss how to get people engaged who don’t select to attend and how to go about attracting them to this type of event.
How do you think the conference experience differs depending on whether you are a white student or a student of color?
I’m half Latina and half white or half privilege, so my experience is neither one nor the other. For a white student who attends the conference, they describe how they came in unaware of how different the school experience is for students of color, and it opens up a dialogue. Hearing from individuals at their school who are going through these experiences is very important, and they come away wanting everyone at school to be able to participate in such a discussion.
Students of color, on the other hand, come in sharing something in common at the conference. They are the majority in the minority. They seem to go through a sort of healing process. Usually, they are not learning something they didn’t already know.
Can you describe any takeaways from the day?
It was incredibly bonding. There are three great people I am still in contact with from my first conference three years ago, my freshmen year in high school. Together, we formed
(Student Organized Leadership for Interscholastic Diversity). The organization is made up of 20 kids from several independent schools and provides a structured and organized place in which we can continue the conversations started at the conference on a bi-monthly basis. Our discussions center on issues as well as articles people bring to the group.
Do you do anything differently because of your attendance at the conference?
Before attending the conference and having full student perspectives, I was quick to jump on someone for their opinion. The conference has taught me to be a better listener and that it is more productive to listen. Also, I’ve come to understand that it is fine if I don’t share the same viewpoint as others.
I’ve also learned to speak from the “I” perspective. I wasn’t sure how to categorize myself before attending the conference. I now realize it is harder to attack someone if what is being said is a part of their identity.
I want to add that I think the facilitators at the conferences have been amazing. I aspire to be at their level of calm and want to be capable of bridging experiences like they do. I’ve tried to model after them in encouraging robust conversations.