On Friday, January 15, high school students gathered virtually for The Ellis’ School’s 17th annual student-led diversity conference, Culture Jam. Led by students in the Student Diversity League (SDL), Culture Jam is the largest and longest-running student-led diversity conference in the region.
This year’s theme, Cultivating Changemakers, focused on why comprehensive, systemic change is essential to improving communities. Students spoke about how change goes far beyond performative activism that often does not address societal injustices and inequalities, and requires people of all ages to do their part. Designed to empower students to have courageous conversations, Cultivating Changemakers gave young people the opportunity to listen to their peers and learn how to take bold, brave steps toward action.
Throughout the day, students discussed social justice in a variety of workshops including:
A Crash Course on Non-Binary History The Effect of Glamorizing Eating Disorders on Student Athletes The commodification of social movements Allies for Autism Intersectionality in Environmentalism
Gisele Barreto Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s Second Lady and co-founder of For Good PGH, delivered the keynote address and spoke about how young people can influence change and impact their communities. She shared her own story as an activist and advocate, and urged students to build a legacy that is rooted in kindness and inclusivity. Members of the #notwhite collective, a group of 13 women artists whose mission is to use non-individualistic, multi-disciplinary art to make their stories visible, also joined this year’s conference and delivered a panel discussion on the connection between art, storytelling, and identity, as well as led an interactive workshop on creating welcoming spaces of connection in today’s world.
“With all the uncertainties the pandemic and societal injustices have brought to our students, I am grateful we were able to move forward with our 17th annual Culture Jam,” shared Denise LaRosa, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. “This work is more relevant and necessary than ever. Gisele’s message left us inspired, motivated, and determined to cultivate change. I look forward to the students engaging in more student-led events and initiatives throughout the academic year.”