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Canterbury Students Attend Diversity Conference at Hotchkiss

Meredith Berry-Toon

On Sunday, April 15, 12 Canterbury students travelled to Hotchkiss School, CT to attend the 16th Annual Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC). This year's conference, Breaking Boundaries: Identity and Intersectionality, focused on the junction between identities and how our identities relate to one another. Canterbury students were joined by over 600 high schoolers from across the region as all engaged in cross-cultural communication to work toward developing effective strategies for social justice on high school campuses and beyond.

Sonia Lee, a Third Former from Tianjin, China, writes:

"One thing that I learned from our group discussion is that combined acknowledgement and respect for other people's experience and opinion creates harmony and activity between people. Nobody in our group—a group of 11 people—knew each other before [the Conference]. But because we have had similar experiences, we listened to and respected each other, we were able to be supportive and be inspired.

A boy in our group is transgender, and he told us that his school is moving him to a boy's dorm next year. Another girl in our group came from a school with about 600 students but only about 20 of them are African-American students, and we learned about her effort to stand up to discrimination in her school. I believe the prerequisite for intersectionality is acceptance and respect and that understanding differences in people comes from respect and understanding of inter-culture, inter-race, inter-gender identities."

Isabella Jimenez '18, one of the founding members of Canterbury's Diversity and Inclusion Club, notes:

"During the session, we dove straight into hands-on and group activities pertaining to the keynote speaker, identity, and intersectionality. We soon came to realize that our different identities did not share mutual experiences and oftentimes contradict one another. For example, my identity as an American and the child of two immigrants, especially today, contradicts one another. What resonated with me the most was advice about college that Dr. Omekongo Dibinga, a professor from American University said to us: 'We need to create a movement, not a moment. Create your own definition of who you are and what you want to become because someone will not do it for you. Society thrives on tearing and breaking people down, so don't give them the power to do so.' I hope that starting the Canterbury Diversity and

Inclusion club this year was planting the seed and that it will continue to grow and become a movement - not just a moment - on this campus."

For the past 16 years, the SDLC has brought students and educators together for a day of self-reflection and community-wide growth. As noted in the invitation for the conference, "Led by a diverse team of trained adult and peer facilitators, participants develop effective cross-cultural communication skills, better understand the nature and development of effective strategies for social justice, practice expression through the arts, and learn networking principles and strategies."

Canterbury students presented on their experience at the conference at School Meeting on Monday. All unanimously agreed that it was an incredibly worthwhile afternoon of learning and discussion.