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Students and Faculty Attend 2022 NAIS Diversity Conferences

In December, six students and eight faculty members flew to San Antonio, Texas, to participate in the 2022 National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) People of Color Conference (PoCC) and Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC). Held in person for the first time since 2019, these events brought together more than 7,600 students and adults from independent schools across the country to learn, share, and collaborate. 

Myles Sead ‘23, Meera Sharma ‘23, Nailah Profit ‘24, Jamie Supe ‘24, Latanielle Augustin ‘25, and Faith Creary ‘25 represented St. Luke’s at the SDLC. Along with more than 1,600 other high school students, they spent two and a half days focusing on the theme, We the People: Leveraging Our Community to Preserve Our Humanity. During the conference, students were exposed to the foundations of allyship and learned about social justice practices that foster cross-cultural communication and effective collaboration.

Jaqueline Nelson, St. Luke’s Director of Equity and Inclusion, commented: “St. Luke’s aims to empower young people to find their voice and make a difference, as well as to discover the power of collective action. The SDLC experience is an important opportunity for Upper School students to do just that. These young people were immersed in community building, perspective-taking, leadership cultivation, and self-exploration, which helped them discover their shared humanity and purpose.”

Students were given the opportunity to provide anonymous reflections on their experiences:

“It was awakening. I was able to feel comfortable in my own skin, and I haven’t felt like that in a long time. I wish I could go back!” – 10th grader

“SDLC was a very good opportunity to meet people similar to me. At the same time, it was a good opportunity to meet people different from me in ways I haven't acknowledged before. It helped me grow. The “We the People” phrase stood out because it really showed me how empowering things could be. During the affinity groups and sharing our ‘We the people’ poem.” – 10th grader

“There was an automatic feeling of unity and immediate connection to everyone based on shared experiences and culture. At the conference, we were celebrated for being different. I realized a good quality of a leader is being able to stand out.” – 11th grader

“I learned I shouldn’t be afraid to connect with others just because I think they might judge me for who I am.” – 11th grader

“SDLC was a really fun experience for me. Getting to meet new people and being in a space with Black people and like-minded people was really nice. I wish more students at St. Luke’s could go.” – 12th grader

“Going in person to SDLC this year was a unique experience. At SDLC, there are so many different minority groups that you become the majority. I feel like that should not be the only setting in which those in the minority feel that way. I wish it weren’t so drastically different here at school. I feel like inclusion and empathy should become part of what we stand for every day. It shouldn’t just be acknowledged during an event.” – 12th grader

While the students were off with their peers, St. Luke’s faculty members were busy attending seminars, master classes, and workshops at the PoCC. The PoCC’s mission is to provide a safe space for leadership, professional development, and networking for people of color and allies of all backgrounds in independent schools. Participants had more than 100 sessions to choose from during the three-day conference, with one led by St. Luke’s Middle School teachers Rachel Lang, Jessie Samuel, and Rob Salandra. In their workshop, Grading (Ourselves) For Equity: A self reflection on the limitations and possibilities of a teacher's own curricula, they shared their process for creating an equity leadership team curriculum rubric, which included creative and iterative methods.

St. Luke’s Upper School Dean of Students Noel Thomas attended PoCC and shared: “The People of Color Conference is an emotional retreat and meaningful professional development. I was blown away by the keynote speaker, Nikki Giovanni — writer, poet, educator, and rockstar! She read some of her work with style and grace while sharing her views on complex topics. Ms. Giovanni urged all in attendance to remember we are ‘earthlings’ - a reference to her love of outer space.”

Nelson went on to say: "Sending St. Luke's faculty and staff to PoCC is an investment in professional development grounded in human connection, restoration, and self-discovery. It is an incomparable professional learning experience specifically for independent school communities. It allows participants to learn from experts and educators from all over the country while creating a platform for St. Luke's exceptional faculty to showcase their own inclusive practices. By sending our faculty and staff to PoCC, we illustrate our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in a truly demonstrative way.”

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St. Luke’s School is a secular (non-religious), private school in New Canaan, CT for grades 5 through 12 serving 25 towns in Connecticut and New York. Our exceptional academics and diverse co-educational community foster students’ intellectual and ethical development and prepare them for top colleges. St. Luke’s Center for Leadership builds the commitment to serve and the confidence to lead.