This past Saturday, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy welcomed approximately 140 students from 22 schools across our region for our Seventh Annual student-led SCHout regional diversity conference. At SCHout, student leadership shines, and from the moment the doors opened on Saturday morning, the positive energy was palpable. Facilitators greeted attendees with music, dancing, and cheering, and our keynote speaker, Sterling Grimes spoke eloquently on the conference theme, “Sharing is Caring: The stories we share bind us together.” Requesting his audience’s participation, he queried, “What makes sharing hard?” Grimes went on to talk about the power of vulnerability to build connections and community, sharing deeply from his own life to illustrate the potent connections that we make when we are courageous enough to entrust others with our own stories.
Grimes, the founder/principal of The Grimes Firm, an education equity consultancy, also led a professional development workshop for adult attendees entitled “Mentorship Over Management: Supporting Student Voice and Agency.”
The SCHout conference is produced by our SCH student facilitators, who have spent scores of hours training to lead conversations about issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion among their peers and designing the programming for the conference. After the keynote and an identity-focused activity called “Who’s in the Room,” the facilitators convened Home Groups, during which participants shared stories from their lives with a partner and then with their group, an activity designed to cultivate radical empathy. The facilitators also presented Social Action Workshops they had designed on a broad array of DEI topics, including: “The BBL Effect,” “Black Music 101,” “Intersectionality: The power of individuality,” “The (Mental) Balancing Act: Work and Life,” “Inside Out: Changing the Mindset Around People with Disabilities,” “Invisible Identities: Representation Beyond the Binary,” “Money Matters: Socioeconomic Status In Schools,” “Nobody’s Perfect and Neither is Disney Channel,” “What's your Type? Taking an Intersectional Look at Contemporary Fetishization of Women of Color,” “Reframing Sustainability and Confronting Environmental Injustice,” “Stereotypes and Common Misconceptions about Race,” and “White Privilege in the LGBTQ+ Community.”
The day concluded with a large-group closing and open microphone session, during which numerous participants articulated their appreciation for a space in which they could connect with like-minded peers and talk about tough topics. “You created an environment where I felt comfortable in my own skin,” said one participant. “This conference felt like a family.” For the student facilitators, whose mission, both in SCH’s Upper School and at SCHout, is to build a community in which each person feels a sense of belonging, there is no higher praise.