This year’s national Student Diversity Leadership Conference took place in Florida which included 1,600 participants. The main focus of the conference was to bring together all kinds of students to gain a better understanding of other people’s cultures. The biggest take away for many was that even though some behaviors are not accepted by society, these things should still be done because it is what makes the universe different.
Matt Luterman, a student at Boys Latin was a little unsure of the conference at first: “I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know whether I’d have fun or not considering it was a conference.” But after the conference was over, he said, “The conference changed me as a man and a person. I realize how important it is to be acceptable and willing to accept what other people are like.”
Victoria Bennett, a student at Garrison Forrest, had a different approach stating that she, “feared that I would get lost in the crowd, I wouldn’t make any friends, and that my voice would not be heard.” But by the time she left there she felt like she, “could be raw and real around my group and other people. Because they were so accepting of me, I now aim to be that accepting of other people that I meet.”
Each group was lead by two adults that ranged from the ages of 19 – 50. In total, there were 32 groups with at least 50 students in each group which were also referred to as family groups. Within those rooms, topics ranged from race, sexuality, gender, religion, and culture.
Race, which is defined as the color of one’s skin, was a major a topic which fueled a lot of great discussions. Zaria Glover, a Garrison Forrest student, experienced race discussions with “a Fishbowl activity where everyone sits in a circle and when the race that you identify with is called, you move into the circle and have a conversation with other people in your affinity group. As individuals sit there, those who are not sitting inside of the circle are sitting silently as they take in what they are hearing to get a better understanding of that culture and the prejudice that they experience daily.”
Sexuality, on the other hand, had multiple labels which included gay, lesbian, queer, and heterosexual. After breaking up into groups based upon what one is identified as, the groups began to speak out on how independent schools deal with those who are not heterosexual. Many people felt as though they are not accepted if they attend a single-sex school while those who go to schools with both sexes don’t feel like they are ostracized as much as those of single-sex schools.
For the most part, what people liked most were the affinity groups that were broken down by one’s nationality. The biggest experience that was spoken about the most was the experiences that took place within the black affinity group which was described as being an everyday ritual where the black affinity group chanted I’m black I’m proud constantly at the top of their lungs that could be heard outside of the hotel.