SDLC Equips Students with Solutions


The annual Student Diversity Leadership Conference, held in Tampa this year from Dec. 3 to 5, continues to be a meaningful experience for its participants that come from all over the globe.

The theme of the conference this year was “Learning to Listen and Listening to Learn: The Art of Dialogue and The Science of Living Justly.” Students participated in activities to better understand and appreciate differences amongst fellow peers.

Junior Sabah Shams participated in SDLC and found the theme to be an important part of the conference.

“It’s important to listen to those with less privilege in order to understand what you can do to be a good ally,” Shams said.

Discussions were focused on people’s experiences as oppressed individuals. Many students were able to share personal stories due to the safe space fostered there.

“We told each other things that we had never told anyone, simply because of the environment created by the students themselves,” Shams said.

A specific example of an activity was the Privilege Walk, in which students all lined up at the end of a conference room. Students were asked questions regarding their socioeconomic (and sometimes even cultural) aspects of their lives and were instructed to step forward or backward according to their answer. Some of the questions “do you have a trust fund?,” “do you have more cars than drivers?” and “were your parents immigrants or forced to leave their native country?”

“It is essential to understand not only differences, but also how they intersect with each other and create varying levels of privilege,” Shams said.

Students were introduced to the eight core cultural identities: socioeconomic status, age, race/ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, ability and family structure, and were encouraged to reflect on their own identities and their connection with others.

Participants from Hockaday included seniors Brianna Buford and Sadie Lidji; juniors Audrey Black, Joy Nesbitt and Sabah Shams;  sophomore Dana Choi and chaperones Director of Inclusion and Community Tresa Wilson, Lower School teacher Tymesia Smaw, Upper School Spanish teacher Alejandra Suarez and Upper School dance instructor Christie Sullivan.

“I learned about the complex and beautiful lives of the other students,” Shams said.

Knowledge learned from the conference equipped students with the tools to address some of the big issues at Hockaday.

Senior and Form IV president Brianna Buford was able to notice what Hockaday is lacking in terms of diversity in this conference.

“Hockaday has a lot of work to do in terms of being a truly diverse community,” Buford said.

Buford stressed discussing current events and engaging in frank discussions as solutions to this problem.

“Disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. That’s what Hockaday needs to do.” Buford said.

The initiation of Current Event Talks, which intends to raise awareness about important events, seeks to create more of these honest discussions on campus. Head of Upper School Terry Murray announced the purpose of these conversations at last week’s assembly.

Murray said, “It’s an opportunity for us to be proactive in the conversation and not reactive and to allow us to build a foundation of knowledge.”