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Addressing self-advocacy, social justice, and partnership at SDLC conference

December 17, 2020

From Nov. 30 through Dec. 4, four students and chaperone Wesley Simon, dean of community life, virtually attended the 25th annual Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC), hosted by the National Association of Independent Schools.

The SDLC is the student portion of the annual People of Color Conference (PoCC). Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Dr. Aleesha Grier-Rogers ’90 stated, “We felt it was critical for Cheshire Academy to send a delegation of affinity group leaders to this event. It’s an extraordinary opportunity for student engagement in affinity sessions to gain a deeper understanding of themselves, and to attend speaker sessions highlighting the current social justice challenges facing independent schools.”

At the conference, the delegation met with like-minded individuals from upper schools around the globe, focusing discussion on self-reflection, forming allies, and building communities. The conference was led by a team of trained adults and peer facilitators, with students meeting in groups of varying sizes. They learned about cross-communication skills, effective strategies for social justice using dialogue and the arts, and the foundations for allyship and networking principles.

Ruth Berganross ’21, Kamden Denomme ’23, Alexis Tolentino ’21, and Amelia Williams ’22 all took part in the event. Tolentino said she enrolled to make a difference both at Cheshire Academy, and around the world. “I wanted to attend the conference to meet other students of color at independent schools who I could relate to and are also passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion. I also wanted to learn how I can make an impact within our small CA community, something that could then create more of an impact and spark conversations among individual students and within their respective communities.”

Tolentino learned new skills to improve self-advocacy and partnership. She plans to work with other students leading CA’s affinity groups to promote a safe and positive environment for all students, current and future.

“The SDLC conference was by far one of my favorite experiences while attending CA,” Tolentino said. “I’ve formed amazing friendships with people from all over the world. I will definitely stay in touch with them to continue conversations on how we can improve our communities through difficult conversations and diversity, equity, and inclusion events and work.”

The delegation will now work as emerging thought leaders, determining ways in which CA can address some of the challenges raised at the conference.

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