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Students Share Learning from the NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference
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UPrep students bring back their learning from a recent student leadership conference.

Students Share Learning from the NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference
Two UPrep students reflect on their experience at an annual multiracial, multicultural gathering of high school student leaders

Six UPrep Upper School students attended the annual National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC), which took place in St. Louis, Missouri, Texas, from November 29 to December 2. This multiracial, multicultural gathering includes student leaders from independent high schools throughout the U.S. and abroad. At SDLC, students spend time on self-reflection and creating community. Along with large group sessions, they connect and talk in small “family groups” and “home groups.” They also learn cross-cultural communication skills, the foundations of allyship, networking principles, and strategies for social justice practice.

The UPrep students were chaperoned by Flor Hernandez Morales, the diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging program manager. “It was a great privilege to see the students be engaged daily,” she said. “The powerful thing about the SDLC conference is that the students come away with a new understanding of themselves and their communities. The students return to UPrep empowered to bring back many tangible ideas to help our community grow, listen, and learn together.”

Upon their return, I spoke with a few students about their experiences at SDLC. Here’s what they had to say. 

Tell me about one experience at the conference that you’ll carry with you.

Umu M. UPrep student

Umu A., 10th grade: An African American poet read a powerful poem that touched me deeply. Something very memorable that he talked about is how there is a clear difference between being an ally and being a partner. An ally is someone who sees you, but a partner is someone who stands with you and changes what you want to target. He spoke about Black pride, what being Black really means, and about loving yourself, which completely changed the way I see certain things. It was nice hearing that and hearing about other people’s experiences. I really appreciated hearing students read a poem they created from the top of their heads and hearing them talk about their Black pride and what being Black means to them. Hearing the speaker and the students made me think of my interpretation of myself and what being Black really means for me.

Beruk S. UPrep Student

Beruk S., 12th grade: An experience that stood out to me was the Black Affinity space. It was an amazing energy being in a room with more than 700 other Black students. I got to talk about what it meant to be Black and the different issues the Black community faces. I also got to meet a ton of really intelligent and cool people that taught me a lot. One thing that stood out to me was the fact that we don’t ever learn about Black accomplishments in history classes, only about slavery or the Civil Rights period. There is so much more deep, beautiful, and genius accomplishments that various Black communities have achieved.

What was one thing you learned from the conference?

Umu: I learned to branch out and talk to more people who have different experiences than me.

Beruk: I learned more about the importance of being an upstander in society. Anytime there is an issue of oppression to a community of individuals, it’s our responsibility to stand up for them and do what we can to help. The term “allies” has many flaws and instead I learned we should be partners. We are all human and so we need to stand up for other humans because, at the end of the day, no matter how “different” someone else is, we are all the same human race.  

Headshot photograph of University Prep writer and editor, Nancy Alton

By Writer/Editor Nancy Schatz Alton


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