In early December, 10 faculty and staff members and six students joined more than 3,000 people at the 25th annual People of Color Conference (PoCC) and the 19th annual Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) for three days of workshops, affinity groups, featured speakers and networking.
SDLC challenged students through discussions in “family groups” where they bonded with a range of student leaders from around the country. The workshops focused on self-reflection, developing allies and community building. Students discussed issues of sexual orientation, race, socio-economic status and religion and learned techniques for leading conversations about diversity issues in their schools. Below four students reflect on their experience.
Neha Bhambhani ’15
My experience at the Student Diversity Leadership Conference was inspirational. I think it was so special because of all the people I met. Everybody was so open and friendly, and it was clear that all of us were there for a purpose. It bound together such a diverse group of people, giving me a new sense of respect. Students had the courage to stand up in front of 1,400 people and share their fears and secrets. I had never been in a community like this before.
During our days at the conference we talked about issues of diversity and our experiences with them. We did activities to explore different perspectives and educate ourselves on these issues with terminology. I think my favorite part of the day was when we sat down for lunch. You didn’t know who you would be were sitting with, but you sat with was a mix of 10 people from all over the country. By the end of your meal you were friends. I still keep in touch with people from the conference. I really think that this experience changed my perspectives and educated me on how to deal with diversity issues.
Alix Santos ’15
When I applied for the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) I had no idea what I would be getting myself into. Upon arriving at the conference on the first day, students from across the county did an activity that really opened my eyes to the environment that I had entered. The speaker, Rodney, told us about all the key identifiers for a person. He told us that he would list aspects of each identifier and asked us each to stand up if we identified with that specific characteristic. Upon seeing the variety of people in the audience and how completely honest they were with this roomful of people that they had never met before, made me think about the environment that we were in. After the activity was over, Rodney asked if anyone in the crowd needed to have a conversation with him in order to help them find themselves. When those people went on stage to tell us personal stories–with emotion and tears–I realized how much they trusted everyone in that room and how welcoming everyone was.
Later on that day, and into the next day we were split into smaller groups in order to discuss the problems regarding each identifier more personally. While in this group, I learned a lot about each identifier as a whole, but also about the stories of the people who represented the different spectrums of these identifiers. Listening to their stories and trying to understand their perspectives helped me to broaden my perspectives and see how these problems might apply to the Nobles community. Coming back to Nobles I hope to be able to bring these different perspectives into all issues regarding identity in the community, creating a more open environment.
Genesis De Los Santos ’15
The highlight of my SDLC experience was interacting and meeting people from different backgrounds. While in Houston, I became a part of a larger community that was understanding and welcoming. Although, there were over 1,500 high school students at the conference, it seemed as though we were all like a family. I was faced with the challenge of meeting new people and interacting with those that I didn’t know much about. Separated from the other Nobles students, I had to learn how to be bubbly and outgoing again. There were so many different people and yet we were all able to come together for the same sole purpose of learning about diversity issues and self-identity issues that affect everyone. It was so easy to feel welcomed and accepted. Along the way, I made a couple of friends and even though they may live on the other side of the country, I know that these are friendships that will last a lifetime. I won’t ever forget the people I met at SDLC and I won’t ever forget that feeling of acceptance when I shared a small snippet of my story with my family group. The people that I met at SDLC will forever remain in my heart.
Maddie Ayles ’15
At SDLC we met often in “family groups,” which were made up of students from all over the country. These groups focused on discussing many specific identity topics and issues. Through hearing stories from other students I learned how sheltered and safe my life has been. When I listened to others share their struggles related to school and family, my eyes were opened to things that I have had the privilege of avoiding.
Even though I cried at least once a day during SDLC, as a reaction to the stories shared by my piers, these stories and their meanings did not completely sink in until I arrived back home. That night when I walked into my house, my parents asked me about the conference and I immediately burst into tears. The sadness, confusion and happiness that I had experienced at SDLC was all coming out at the same time. My overwhelming emotions showed me how influential the trip had been. The openness of the community and the amazing people I shared it with, exposed me to things that will forever play a role in how I live my life.
I plan to keep in touch with and exchange ideas with the friends I have made at SDLC throughout and beyond our high school years.