Falcons land in St. Louis for Diversity Leadership Conference

Hosted by the National Association for Independent Schools, the Student Diversity Leadership Conference was an eye-opening experience.
Saint Stephen’s representatives attending the conference.
Saint Stephen’s representatives attending the conference.
Mrs. Anna Conn

This past week, faculty members Mr. David Johnson, Dr. Joel Erby, and Mrs. Anna Conn attended the NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) in St. Louis, Missouri. 

This was not the first time a Saint Stephen’s delegation attended the conference, but this year was special as they were able to invite six upper school students to represent Saint Stephen’s alongside the faculty. 

Along for the journey were students Keymani Dillingham, Ella Ziegler, Priscilla Webley, Hao Li, Sanjay Motwani, and Jeremy Stroh.

According to NAIS (the National Association of Independent Schools), the conference is a, “multiracial, multicultural gathering of student leaders from eligible independent high schools across the U.S. and abroad.”

Invited Falcons were selected because of their diverse cultural backgrounds, and most importantly, because of their notable acts of leadership, both on and off campus. 

Dr. Erby and Mrs. Conn selected this group for their ability to bring what they learned in the conference back to school.

Stroh, pictured to the far right, was deeply impacted by the conference. (Anna Conn)

The SDLC is a conference event for students and educators from all different races, cultures, and ethnicities to come together and discuss leadership, collaboration, and the challenges people of color face in our current educational society. 

Students are given the opportunity to listen to a variety of teachers, writers, and speakers who discuss their personal experiences navigating the private school system as a person of color. Then students break into small groups for the duration of the conference, working with one another to look at the problems of discrimination and ways to tackle that issue.

Attendee Jeremy Stroh, a junior, learned a lot from the conversations held in the conference.

“We established the problem of racism in our school and communities and how social economic status is a big part in privileges, opportunities, etc.”

The topics of race and discrimination are often quieted in the classroom, but at the conference, they are highlighted and analyzed. And while there was a surplus of information for the students to take away, the emotional experience will stick with them much longer.

“This conference had a huge impact on me,” Stroh said.  “It’s hard to explain, but it was really amazing to meet all these people with the same goal of changing our communities for the better, and to meet so many people from all the corners of the world.” 

Faculty attendee Mrs. Conn had a similar experience during her time at the conference, even from an adult perspective.

“The affinity groups are a really impactful part of this event for me because we don’t have a lot of them in our area. This year, I went to the adoptee group, and it was just really special to be surrounded by other people who are adopted.”

As these students and teachers return to Saint Stephen’s, they bring with them not only a wealth of knowledge, but also a renewed commitment to foster positive change within their school and communities. The ripple effect of their experiences at the SDLC is sure to resonate, inspire further conversations, actions, and a collective effort to create a more inclusive and equitable educational environment.

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