During the week of November 28, 2023 to December 2, 2023, six Wooster community members (including me) attended a three-day convention called Student Diversity Leadership Conference, also known as SDLC. Simone Prodoti ‘24, Modou Thioye ‘24, JaMiyah Claxton ‘25, and me, Shay Holebrook ‘24, were chaperoned by Mrs. Bazemore (Head of EJC) and Mr. Wolfson (Philosophy Teacher). While us students attended SDLC, both chaperones attended a teachers and staff only event called, POCc (People of Color Conference), both being held in St. Louis, Missouri at America's Center Convention Complex. Both SDLC and POCc are held by NAIS, which is the National Association of Independent Schools. This year, there were 2,203 students, and more than 8,000 teachers in attendance. SDLC began in 1993, with the intention of bringing together Independent School students from all across the country and internationally, to converse on each other's experiences and help strengthen leadership qualities amongst these diverse students.Whether it be ethnicity, race, religion, sexuality, etc., all are welcomed at SDLC, throughout the years they’ve created a safe space for all who feel they will benefit from the uncomfortable conversation of world, community and self issues.
We arrived in St. Louis, MI, a day early to explore the city and sightsee. We went to the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station and we rode to the top of the Gateway Arch. Later on that night we enjoyed food at a burger joint called, Hi-Pointe. The second day was the opening of SDLC. We went to America's Center Convention Complex, to check in and receive our student/staff badges for SDLC, being we had two very long days ahead of us. When checking in on the second day, we ran into a previous Wooster staff member, Dr. Black! He was attending POCc while also chaperoning for an Independent School he works at in Massachusetts.
The next two days at SDLC revolved around learning about the new people who surrounded us, and learning about ourselves. All students were assigned to a Family Group, all named by Supreme Court cases that occurred in the United States. My Family Group was named Loving v. Virginia. In our Family Groups we had talked about not only these federal cases, but we talked about our individual experiences at predominantly White schools, and how that has affected us. We also talked about ways we can embrace going to schools where you are the minority, and how we can go about addressing the issues of diversity in our school communities. Extended from Family Groups, were Home Groups, which were smaller condensed versions of your Family Group members; and lastly, Affinity Groups, which was particularly my favorite part of SDLC. Affinity Groups are created for members of specific communities. The following Affinity groups were at SDLC: Black/African American, Jewish, Middle Eastern, Latinx, Asian/Asian Pacific- Islander, International, Multiracial, Transracially adopted, LGBTQ+, etc. All of these groups meet both days to decompress, and lean on each other for a sense of familiarity and comfortability. Ultimately being able to relate to those people in your Affinity group was what everyone benefited from.
All of us on this trip enjoyed ourselves to the fullest extent. We all learned so much from this experience, whether about ourselves, the new people around us, or each other. SDLC and POCc is truly a one of a kind experience and I’m beyond grateful that I got to attend and expand my knowledge on a plethora of topics that I can bring back with me to Wooster!