Multi-School Diversity Conference: Challenging "Normalcy"

“Young people have always been agents for social change,” states A’Dorian Murray-Thomas, keynote speaker for this year’s sixth annual SCHOUT Diversity Conference which took place last Saturday. “We, as young people, know what is wrong and what we need to do about it. It’s whether or not we have the space to use our voice.”

The conference—which went virtual for the first time in SCH Academy history—began with an energetic dance to OutKast’s “Hey Ya,” getting everyone excited for the day and celebrating their individuality, whether it was a subtle shimmy in their seats or a choreographed gesture seen in the 2003 music video. Attendees were warmly welcomed by SCH’s Upper School Diversity Coordinators Victoria Stitt and Polly Kimberly, SCH teacher and advisor to Student Facilitators Frank Jackson, DEI Council Co-Heads Finn Seifert and Morgan Ellison-Jones, and Student Facilitators tri-heads Lia Jones, Celia Mazzarelli, and Jazze Wingard, who spearheaded various social action workshops later that day.

A’Dorian Murray-Thomas, founder and CEO of a leadership and social action organization for middle and high school girls in Newark, kicked off the multi-school diversity conference with a powerful keynote for more than 200 student and faculty attendees. Her conversation raised questions about many of the events that occurred in the last year, including the death of George Floyd, the pandemic, and how the idea of normalcy has changed for many of us. 

“You are here because you know that normalcy is not the expectation,” said Murray-Thomas. “In fact, normalcy is so dangerous that, if we stay there, we not only potentially lose parts of ourselves, but we lose parts of what justice could actually look like for generations to come after us...Anything that society has tried to relegate as ‘other’ is not a flaw. It’s not something that needs to be changed. It’s something that’s worth protecting. But, we also know that standing up for ourselves and what we care about isn’t always easy.”

Murray-Thomas concluded her thought-provoking discussion on individuality, self-accountability, tough conversations, and challenging normalcy with a poignant reminder: “Have faith that the work will continue and that, even if you may not see the immediate gains, it’s still worth fighting for...Know your power. Own your power.”

SCH senior Finn Seifert reflected on some of his favorite moments from Murray-Thomas’ powerful talk, resonating with “the feeling that the world was ending when it was actually beginning” and how perfectly that sentiment echoed the 2020-2021 year. 

As the day went on, conference attendees also participated in a story exchange, optional affinity group lunches, and social action workshops spanning topics such as consent in media, white privilege, mental health, and the glamorization of drug use in popular culture. All 12 social action workshops were conceived and designed by our Student Facilitators who worked hard over the last few months to prepare and bring these important discussions to light.

Upper School Diversity Coordinator Polly Kimberly shares: “I was incredibly proud of our Student Facilitators who brought so much positive energy, poise, and grace under pressure. The feedback that we heard at the end of the day from attendees was fantastic; clearly students had meaningful and connecting experiences throughout the day.”

A huge thank you to A’Dorian Murray-Thomas for joining us on Saturday and a hearty congratulations to our dedicated Student Facilitators who brought yet another successful diversity conference to fruition!

 

Photo Caption: Seniors Finn Seifert (top left) and Morgan Ellison-Jones (top right) welcome over 200 virtual attendees to SCH Academy’s multi-school diversity conference, which featured keynote speaker A’Dorian Murray-Thomas (bottom center).


Interested in learning more about SCH Academy's diversity, equity, and inclusion goals? See what engagement opportunities and spaces are offered to each of our divisions and grade levels, meet our Diversity Leadership team, and more.

 

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