As we continue to build our strengths in diversity and inclusion work, an annual conference has been an invaluable contributor to our work.
Each year, Tabor sends six students to the Student Diversity Leadership Conference, while two of our faculty members work as facilitators at the conference. The conference is put on each year by the National Association of Independent Schools in conjunction with their People of Color Conference, where several of our faculty learn together each year. The conferences together are one of the largest conferences in education and will take place in Seattle, WA, this year from December 4-7. Our students compete for spots to attend the conference, and it is always a tough decision to choose among the terrific leaders who apply.
The Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) is a multiracial, multicultural gathering of high school age students that aims to create an inclusive and safe space for student leaders to discuss multicultural community building. The students come from around the country and around the world, led by trained independent school faculty members, peers, and distinctive speakers. The students engage in self-reflection, networking, discussions about their school communities and allyship, and share ideas about how to bring about change to our independent school communities. Our students have come away with many ideas and competencies over the years that have helped strengthen our work in this area. In all, there are about 15 students in any given year who have attended the conference on campus.
Students attending the conference are bolstered in their identities and empowered to contribute their knowledge and experience while learning important communication and facilitation skills, as well as ways to become an ally and a force for positive campus change.
Last year, our students returned with two important outcomes. The first was a framework for bringing student leadership forward at Tabor through establishing a student-run club that would bring some of the exercises and discussion topics back to Tabor. The IDEA Club was born! (Identity, Diversity, Equity and Awareness) The group met a couple of times last spring and managed to transition their leadership and continue operation this year. The second significant outcome of last year’s conference was the student’s insistence that we retain the keynote speaker, Christian Piccolini, a former white supremacist, to speak at Tabor. The faculty in attendance agreed and set to work to attract Piccolini, an internationally acclaimed peace advocate and speaker, to campus. It was the highlight of the summer for Mrs. Kimberlee Williams, Director of Equity and Inclusion, to learn that Piccolini accepted our invitation to speak with our students at Tabor later this winter in celebration of MLK Day.
We are eager to see the results and hear the ideas from this year’s conference attendees. While so much of the growth at the conference is personal in nature, it almost always extends out into the Tabor community in demonstrable ways. As we build student and faculty cultural competency, we hope these newly trained leaders will step up and share their perspectives with others. As we open more opportunities for dialogue, such as with affinity groups for students and faculty, our trained leaders will help to expand our capabilities and help us to navigate cultural differences and build community norms and broader understanding across our campus.