“For the first time, I kind of felt like I was in a room of people who all had their doors open and understood where I was coming from,” shared Jahmier Warfield ’21, describing his experience attending the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC), part of the PoCC. Warfield was one of six Tabor students who attended the Virtual SDLC this year, which boasted a total of nearly 3,000 students from schools around the world.
The conference is “the flagship of the National Association of Independent Schools' (NAIS) commitment to equity and justice in teaching and learning. The mission of the conference is to provide a space for leadership and professional development and networking for people of color and allies of all backgrounds in independent schools.” Tabor is committed to sending up to six students to the conference annually — the maximum a school can send.
But the conference isn’t just an experience for students; twelve faculty and staff members attended, as well. “PoCC is a great experience for all educators and students,” shared Loraine Snead, Director of Equity and Inclusion. “It helps to give us all the knowledge, skills and experiences to help us improve as a school when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion, ranging from student life aspects of our culture to the curriculum.”
The sessions range from student life, academics and athletics to learning support, hiring practices and more. Warfield shared details about an academic-focused session he attended at the conference about African American Literature, something that isn’t taught as a class at Tabor. “I learned things that I never got to experience before, and I saw myself in places that I wouldn’t normally see myself in the regular classroom.” He went on to explain that Black History isn’t always a large part of the curriculum, at Tabor or at other schools. “We typically learn about slavery, but we don’t really learn about who were the people before we came over, our African origins … It really inspired me to learn more about African American history.”
Expanding the curriculum is something that Snead says is part of her goal with wanting to really dive into what is taught at Tabor. “We need to interrogate school-wide curricula and co-curriculum to decolonize and decenter whiteness, and create a more inclusive approach to learning,” she remarked. Both students and faculty had the opportunity to attend sessions that discussed issues such as inclusivity in curriculum,
While not everyone found the virtual event to be as powerful as when the conference has been in person, those who attended still walked away feeling like it was a remarkable experience, and one that more people could participate in than usual. “Having the conference virtual is both a gift and a curse,” added Christian Garris ‘05, Associate Director of Admissions/Multicultural Outreach. “It’s more accessible and more people can go, but we do miss that in-person dynamic. We form a bond with the students who attend with us when we travel to the conference and debrief at the end of each day.”
“I’ve been to PoCC in person in the past,” shared Bethany Daniels, Executive Assistant to the Interim Head of School, who noted that she joined affinity groups that continued to connect with others outside of the conference. “We have emails going throughout the year, and before the virtual conference this year, we were already in touch and knew each other’s names. It makes the experience just that much more personal.”
Warfield is bringing back ideas with him to Tabor about how we can build a more inclusive community and recognize the various identities of our people. “There are lots of little things we can do, but these can also lead to bigger changes,” he said. One of his ideas is to create an Identity Path on campus, with flag poles that can display flags that represent various constituencies that make up our community.
“It was fun, overall a very good experience,” he summarized. “I would say that if you’re looking to expand your thoughts and gain other perspectives, this is the place to go.” Warfield noted that the conference isn’t just limited to talking about diversity in terms of race. “I learned a lot of things, like about the identity of being asexual. I never really learned about that outside of the science classroom before, so that was interesting. I also met students who weren’t comfortable with who they are, and being a part of this conference was the first time they ever really started to feel comfortable. I was really happy to be a part of that.”
Snead added, “Everyone should attend this conference in the future, regardless of your race or identity. It’s an open and inclusive conference that’s meant to educate everyone.”
Director of Facilities Chris Boucher attended for the first time, and he also echoed this sentiment, saying, “I wanted to experience what it was like to be uncomfortable. It makes a difference, and I know I’ll never get the full experience, but I wanted to take a minute to walk in someone else’s shoes, and I hope to do that in person someday. You can still feel connected to people, too, even if you don’t look like them.”