The Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) creates an inclusive and safe space for upper school student leaders (grades 9-12) to come together and discuss issues related to awareness, being an ally to marginalized groups, and multicultural community building. Earlier in December, student leaders from around the country traveled to Indianapolis to engage in transformative workshops about their own identities, enhancing cross-cultural communication skills, and developing effective strategies for implementing social justice practices at their schools.
Here are several reflections from SEEDS Scholar Alumni who attended the conference:
Armani King (Scholars ’12, Stuart Country Day School ’16): “… My experience at SDLC was a GREAT one! I loved how people who had no clue about each other’s existence became so close in a short amount of time and were able to relate so easily. I truly feel that I have gained a family (1,700 strong!).”
Khizar Qureshi (Scholars ’11, Church Farm School ’15): “Awareness. People — like myself, tend to live in bubbles of comfort. At school it is difficult to talk about uncomfortable topics like race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. SDLC allowed me to become aware of the world I live in — outside of school and my comfortable environment. At SDLC I built meaningful relationships with people that felt safe expressing their ideas. My favorite part of the experience was getting to know people in my affinity group. All of the Middle Eastern American students came together and shared their experiences with race and ethnicity, I felt at home. I’m extremely grateful for having the opportunity to experience SDLC.”
Satinder Parmar (Scholars ’13, Cambridge School of Weston ’17): “I am a part of the New Jersey SEEDS Scholars Class of 2013, and never did I imagine the opportunities I would be given by attending an independent school. These past three days, I have had the incredible honor of attending the 21st Annual Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) in Indianapolis, Indiana. These past few days have been intensive and eye opening – to the extent that my thoughts and emotions are scattered all over the place. So many differences acknowledged, connections made, and valuable lessons learned regarding diversity and inclusivity. As a student leader, I have been reassured that my voice has the power needed to make change. As a NJ SEEDS scholar, it is a part of my responsibility to use my voice as a tool to address what needs to be discussed within our society today. I walk away from this intense and deep journey taking every bit of it with me, with hopes to spark change and continue fighting for equity and justice for all. My experience at SDLC will never be forgotten.”
Michelle Rowicki (Scholars ’12, Dwight-Englewood School ’16): “Since I attended SDLC this past week, I have realized that this has been one of my most enjoyable experiences since I came to Dwight-Englewood. Coming from a city in which I was seen as the minority and at school I was considered part of the majority due to my race, I have never felt entirely comfortable with accepting my cultural identity. However, at SDLC, I realized that there are hundreds of other high school students who are also dedicated to improving the acceptance of all students in independent schools. This enlightening experience has not only improved my understanding of the eight core identifiers, but it has also allowed me to realize that collective action can be effective for allowing schools to continue on their journey towards acceptance. Like my NJ SEEDS family, I will keep my SDLC family close and know that I can reach out to them at any time for continued support.”
Jessenia Vazquez (Scholars ’11, Princeton Day School ’15): “SDLC was such an amazing experience. Truly life changing, and this is no exaggeration. I am so glad to have been a part of it this year. It helped me in so many ways. My participation in SDLC helped relieve a lot of things I was dealing with recently. I felt like my voice was heard, and I felt like I knew everyone even though we had only just met. I made so many new friends and really had the opportunity to explore my cultural identity. I don’t think I have ever felt so relieved in my life. I not only feel relieved from stress but I was also able to find myself. I understand the importance of advocacy and how to really stand up for what I believe and to not be afraid to speak. I can’t find the words to explain how beneficial this has been, I’m just extremely happy to be among so many people who understand me, and not only that, but they stand behind me. Knowing that they are there is so comforting, words cannot describe my joy.”