Diversity Conference Inspires Ellis Students to Lean In

In early December, six Upper School students attended the Student Leadership Diversity Conference (SDLC) in Nashville, Tennessee, and they have been sharing their stories with the Ellis community as a panel in multiple settings: an Upper School Assembly, a Middle School faculty meeting, an Upper School faculty meeting, a meeting with the Ellis Parent Association, and a meeting with the Ellis Board of Trustees.
Since their return, I have been fortunate to participate in a few of the stops on the SDLC tour. In every presentation, no matter the audience, the students have demonstrated confidence, bravery, and a willingness to “lean in” and discuss challenging topics.

Each Thursday, SDLC alumnae meet together over lunch to continue working on the initiatives that were seeded during their trip last December. Prior to spring break, I had an opportunity to join one of their Thursday lunch meetings to reflect with them on their various presentations and to hear an update on their current work. Their whirlwind tour required them to face different audiences, some familiar and some not. Regardless of their familiarity with the group, they have appreciated the many opportunities to share their experience and answer questions. Part of the panel presentation included each of them sharing personal experiences they have had as students of color. The students acknowledged that it was intimidating to share some of these stories with their teachers, but they did not shy away from doing so. They were able to lead honest conversations and respond to those outside their peer group with confidence and bravery. In nearly every situation, the groups were engaged and responsive, and the students felt affirmed in their efforts.

As the SDLC students continue their work, they have launched a few new initiatives at the School, including the Multiracial Student Union affinity group in the Upper School. Their ongoing commitment to the work is impressive; they are actively recruiting students who they believe can join them in their efforts to make positive changes at Ellis. It is clear that the students have been emboldened by these forums, and that they are enthusiastic to keep moving forward on their work in the community. As our meeting concluded, they all agreed that they are “excited for Ellis,” and while there is challenging work ahead, they believe that all of the needed changes are feasible and attainable. I look forward to their continued efforts and for the next group of SDLC participants to join this cohort of inspiring and self-assured young adults.