As part of the School’s continued work around both the Teaching & Learning and Equity & Inclusion goals of its Strategic Plan, Head-Royce sent a cohort of nine adults and six students to Nashville, TN, last week to attend the 2018 National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) People of Color Conference (PoCC) and Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC), respectively, in order to gain insights into building and cultivating more diverse, equitable, and inclusive independent school communities. Though the conferences are related, they run concurrently and are two separate entities – each with its own finely-tuned programming.
In its 31st year running, the NAIS PoCC is comprised of pre-conference seminars, general sessions with keynotes, a plethora of practitioner-led workshops, extensive affinity group work, and dialogue sessions with the intent to “provide a sanctuary and networking opportunity for people of color and allies in independent schools as we build and sustain inclusive school communities” and pursue strategies for success and leadership therein. Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2018, the NAIS SDLC, “a multiracial, multicultural gathering of upper school student leaders (grades 9–12) from across the U.S. and abroad,” led by a diverse group of trained adult and peer facilitators, incorporates large group sessions with smaller “family group” and “home group” dialogues with the intent to help “participating students develop cross-cultural communication skills, design effective strategies for social justice practice through dialogue and the arts, and learn the foundations of allyship and networking principles.”
With both the rich musical history of Nashville, known the world over as “Music City U.S.A.,” and its more complex history around social justice (specifically as the site of the Nashville Sit-Ins; the earliest non-violent direct action campaigns to end racial segregation in the 1960s), casting a melodic, often-painful, and triumphant historical and contemporary backdrop, the adults attending PoCC explored the conference theme of Equitable Schools and Inclusive Communities: Harmony, Discord, & The Notes in Between, while students attending SDLC tackled the theme Listening for the Grace Note: Finding Harmony Amid Cacophony.
The conferences opened with a gripping keynote address by Lisa Ling and closed with an equally poignant and honest “call-to-love” by an emotional Marc Lamont Hill. In between, adults were treated to empowering addresses by co-director of the Right Question Institute and author of Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions Luz Santana; Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman; and author of bestselling manifesto How To Raise An Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success Julie Lythcott-Haims, who visited HRS in October to discuss her findings and answer parenting questions from our community. Students heeded the life lessons that SDLC keynote speaker, award-winning TV producer, and Life After Hate founder Christian Picciolini shared with them from his experiences as a former violent extremist turned peace advocate, which he discusses in detail in his memoir, WHITE AMERICAN YOUTH: My Descent into America’s Most Violent Hate Movement–and How I Got Out.
On the final morning of the conferences, the six US students on the trip led the entire HRS cohort in an emotional and all-embracing discussion where each of the 15 shared the highlights–whether positive or negative–that stood out for them, and brainstormed the best strategies they learned to bring back to enrich the entire HRS community as the School leans in to continue its work cultivating the global citizens of today and tomorrow.
Bird's Eye View is a story series highlighting our work towards the initiatives and goals laid out in our Strategic Plan: Bridge to 2022.