Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

The Experience of the Student Diversity Leadership Conference

by Annie Nichols '21
Six Country School ninth graders attended the national Student Diversity Leadership (SDLC) conference held Nov. 30-Dec. 4, which allowed them to connect with students from across the country virtually. Read the experience of one student, Annie Nichols.
As an outdoorsy person, I love the sunshiny days of May in Vermont. One particular day that has stuck with me was in mid-May 2020. We had gotten a couple of inches of snow, to the point I was able to hike up the mountain and ski for a while. Then, after getting back to the house, taking off my boots, and storing away my skis, I looked at my email to see an application for the 2020 Student Diversity Leadership Conference. I had gotten a taste of the SDLC experience by attending a local Connecticut Conference and listening to a summary of the experience from a couple of friends so I decided to apply. Timely, I found out I was accepted to the conference on my birthday. Although I knew when the conference would be, the premise, and who would be attending with me, I had a bundle of questions about how COVID would impact things. I wondered if my experience was going to be the same or as meaningful as those who were in years prior able to participate in person. Most of all, I was excited and endlessly anticipating my SDLC week. Along with attending the conference, I also became a member of the SDLC committee at school. We learn new vocabulary, talk about how we can influence others and the impact we can make on our community. With each week, the excitement for the conference grew bigger in our committee’s classroom. 

Finally, it was time to attend the conference. Of the six members attending the conference, four, including myself, were attending from school while two were logging on at home. The four of us were assigned conference rooms and my conference room, which was arguably the best, became my workspace for five full days. Each morning we logged onto zoom to meet with our “family groups” for two hours. In these groups, we would hear from our leaders about different identifiers, first-hand accounts from various people, and do activities that ranged from a “fishbowl” to making memes. After our family groups, we had lunch ordered from local restaurants. While I ate my lunch, I would Facetime a friend attending the conference from home. We would talk about our mornings, what we learned, and even watch a couple of Phineas and Ferb episodes over Disney Plus. Once we said our goodbyes, we logged onto a webinar from a different incredible person each day. I was blown away by what the speakers had to say during these webinars. Our last activity of the day was our self-selected affinity groups, where we talked as a group about what it feels like to be, or not be, a member of the group. After our group meetings, the five other members of the committee and I would meet and discuss what we learned from the day and the other members attending the conference. 

SDLC was not just a fun way to spend the first week of December. SDLC allowed me to gain experience and perspectives unique to the conference. I was asked questions I had never thought about before, which required much more than a one-sentence response. I made friends from all over, some from close to home and some who ski at the same mountain as me. Applying and attending the conference was one of the best choices I could have made. I was blown away and speechless by how welcomed and understood I felt. As someone who lives in a single-parent household after losing my father, being able to share my experience and having people understand and relate to me felt so refreshing. Even when people could not connect to what I had gone through, they were supportive and mentioned they were here for me. I did my best to be equally sympathetic and, when applicable, empathetic to others who shared their stories. The leaders of the conference taught us endless skills and sensitivity training for conversations to come. While we did get to play some games and participate in activities, the educational piece of the Student Diversity Leadership Conference was unforgettable and incredible. Even though the event was two months ago, I have already been able to apply what I have learned to both the classroom and our committee. I am endlessly grateful and proud to say I attended this conference.

The ninth graders who participated are Julia Cooper, Maria Flores, Will Mackey, Aaron Majewski, Annie Nichols, Waverly Walters.

Faculty and staff who participated are School Psychologist Rebecca Comizio, Sixth Grade Teacher Mauricia Gardiner, Fifth Grade Apprentice Olivia Mao and Director of Diversity & Inclusion Kojo Clarke.
New Canaan Country School admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin and are afforded all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, age, sex, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry, or disability in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, financial aid policies or any other school-administered programs.