The Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC for short) was an amazing, unforgettable experience. You go to learn about diversity, and how you are affected by your identities. You can bring what you learned back to your school. Most people ask me if white people go. Yes, they do. It’s not only for minorities; it’s for people who are open-minded and willing to learn about other races, religions, genders/gender identities, and other people’s struggles. There are very intimate conversations about people’s stories. You get to learn about people on a whole other level before you know them as a friend. At SDLC, I learned about so many things, from privilege to gender identities.
We did many activities for each topic. I think the privilege line exercise we did was the most informative, because you were able to see where you landed privilege-wise within that group of people. I’ve done this exercise before SDLC, and the previous time I ended more towards the back of the room, compared to this time, when I ended up more towards the front, and somewhat in the middle. I think it ended up like this because previously, the exercise has been about where and how I live. This time, it was more about my privileges and whether or not I live a certain way.
For me, this experience was life changing, because it really opened my mind to the idea of “when the world is equal”, knowing that it may never be that way. In order to go, you really have to prepare yourself by being open and willing to learn about other perspectives. You learn about the way in which must people live, because they’re judged for who they are. You also have to be prepared to cry. I say that because the stories that some people told about their personal experiences were so sad. Their situations went as far as getting raped, and this cousin committing suicide because they were raped. Day one to day three was intense. The only time you really had the chance to meet people was during lunch and at night in the hotels. During one of the lunches there was a talent show with about 16 people, even though way more people signed up. This was the most entertaining portion of the day, because there were people who slit their pants, slam poets, singers, good and bad rappers, and amazing dancers.
The last day of the trip, we presented to the teachers what we learned and what we would bring back to school. We taught them about gender binaries and stereotypes. We did a vine exercise where we put the teachers in groups and gave each group a hashtag to act out in six seconds, like an actual vine. They weren’t allowed to tell everyone else what their hashtag was, we were supposed to guess it. Fortunately, they did amazing jobs with the stereotypical hashtags given, which are actual hashtags people have used on vine. Even though we had a little fun during this time, it got kind of deep at the end, because we gave them the opportunity to ask us any questions that they had about what they can do as teachers to show that they are actually there to help. We told them to come forward about it a little more often, and they said that they are there for us, and to help us with any issues we have with the way things are going- bullying, racism, anything. They like to believe that the school environment is a great place for everyone, but when they heard our stories, they realized that even though Princeton Day School, my school, is a great school, there really isn’t any way that we can get rid of what happens in and outside of school. The only thing we really can do is try to talk more about the issues going on in the world, rather than sitting around and letting it happen.
SDLC was a really nice experience for me, because it included so many people from around the country. There were 1,620 kids there from all around the country, from California to New York. The conference really helped, and each day felt like another day of recovery in a way. I say this because we are all conditioned to think a certain way and to believe certain things. It also made me realize that I wasn’t alone, and I don’t have it as bad as other people. I also realized that even with my race, I still have more privileges than others of the same or different race. It benefits the students who are afraid to express themselves, but really want to. It brings something to the table for the students and the teachers to get a better understanding of everything, and helps them view different perspectives and how it affects different people in either a positive or negative way. I would like to have some days at my school where we would just learn about different things, such as racism, sexism, classism, gender identities. Since I go to a private school, where not many people are open minded, I think it would help everyone a lot to have days like these. We would get to know each other better as people, rather than classmates, peers, teachers, or acquaintances.
– Written by Asianna Hall (redefy school representatives team member)