Six Bullis Upper School students in December participated in the Student Diversity Leadership Conference at National Harbor, Md. Organized by the National Association of Independent Schools, this two-and-a-half day conference brings together 1400 high school students from independent schools across the United States and some foreign countries to learn how to address issues of inclusion and identity in independent schools.
By learning to identify some of the different parameters of diversity and equity the attendees acquire the tools to help make our schools stronger communities. In addition to the workshops, students also have the opportunity for deep self-reflection to embrace their true identities. By sharing stories and experiences from so many others, the students learned how powerful it can be to bring your true self to school every day.
Junior Julian James reflected on his participation at the conference, saying “I gained a renewed perspective on the struggles people go through every day, and how my actions affect people. I began to see everyone at the conference as family irrespective of their race, religion, creed, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation. We shared a lot of similar experiences and viewpoints, even though we all grew up very differently. I learned that our differences are what makes our culture rich and valuable. When you take the time to listen to someone else’s perspective, you can learn a lot of new things, including that we are not so different after all.
“Now, I feel it is of the utmost importance to make an effort to break down barriers with love, even if at first it does not come naturally to you. Throughout those three days,the most beautiful thing was seeing everyone, whether they were Asian, Black, White, lesbian, gay, rich or poor, American or International, feel as if they were all welcome, equal, and among a group of people they could call family. To everyone involved, the conference provided a shift, however small, in their mindset and how they view others. And it gave us a network of people that we can reach out to for support. Sometimes, in today’s society, it is easy to lose sight of what is really important, and that often is reflected in how we treat others. I learned that even a small gesture of genuine kindness, understanding, or friendship, even as easy as a simple hello can make a big difference in someone’s day, and make them feel included, accepted, and loved.”
Julian joined sophomore Jason Mejia and four other juniors—Perri Beach, Kaylah Hodge, Briana Jenifer and James Wang—at the conference. Over the next few months these six students will share their experiences by presenting to to groups, and by helping plan assemblies and workshops.
December 31, 2013