Webb students return from Student Diversity Leadership Conference with lessons of DEI to share with the community

Fran+Torres+%28%E2%80%9822%29%2C+Bryan+Oglesby+%28%E2%80%9823%29%2C+Karma+Griggs+%28%E2%80%9823%29%2C+Reece+Ollivierre+%28%E2%80%9823%29%2C+Valeria+Gonzales+%28%E2%80%9823%29%2C+Gabby+Diaz+%28%E2%80%9823%29%2C+and+Mr.+Choi+pose+together+in+front+of+Christmas+decorations+while+Ice+Age+plays+in+the+background.+Participants+at+the+SDLC+begin+a+pizza-making+activity+altogether%2C+spreading+flour+on+the+counter+to+begin%2C+as+Mr.+Mbengue+and+Ms.+Nacionales+help+prepare+in+the+kitchen.+Gabby+Diaz+%28%E2%80%9823%29+slides+completed+pizza+onto+the+plate+Dr.+Greco+holds.+Making+pizzas+together+was+one+of+the+numerous+relaxing+activities+the+group+would+host+after+a+long+day+of+conferences.+The+attendees+pose+in+front+of+the+house+they+stayed+at+for+the+week.++

Heloise Robertson

Fran Torres (‘22), Bryan Oglesby (‘23), Karma Griggs (‘23), Reece Ollivierre (‘23), Valeria Gonzales (‘23), Gabby Diaz (‘23), and Mr. Choi pose together in front of Christmas decorations while Ice Age plays in the background. Participants at the SDLC begin a pizza-making activity altogether, spreading flour on the counter to begin, as Mr. Mbengue and Ms. Nacionales help prepare in the kitchen. Gabby Diaz (‘23) slides completed pizza onto the plate Dr. Greco holds. Making pizzas together was one of the numerous relaxing activities the group would host after a long day of conferences. The attendees pose in front of the house they stayed at for the week.

Six Webb students were chosen based on their interest and commitment to diversifying the perspectives of their community, and the openness to learn about how identity defines us. These Webb students spent a week away and attended the Student Diversity Leadership Conference.

Every year, the Student Diversity Leadership Conference hosts students from different schools across the country to celebrate diversity and to educate and understand equity. The main focus of this conference is appreciating differences and “the foundations of allyship“. This year, a few Webb students attended and had an incredible time, gaining valuable perspectives and lessons to bring back to the community.

Lisa Nacionales, chair of the science department, was one of the chaperones on the trip. However, the faculty and adults attended a separate conference from the students, which was the People of Color Conference that ran concurrently with the SDLC. Both groups had the opportunities to watch speakers discuss significant topics, participate in affinity groups, and enjoy activities circled around identity and belonging, all with an underlying theme of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Ms. Nacionales had a wonderful experience at the PoCC, recalling workshops on telling stories and narratives, healing from racial trauma, how racial trauma can manifest in the classroom, and how to tackle that.

“I typically go to the Asian-American Pacific Islander affinity group, which has hundreds of educators in that group,” Ms. Nacionales said. “My micro affinity group is Filipinx second generation, so we have shared understandings, shared history, and common experiences while growing up. It is a supportive group, and it is great to see them every year I go.”

Ms. Nacionales was struck by how land was acknowledged and recognized to belong to indigenous people of the areas. The speakers explained topics such as understanding how to honor the land and traditions and to realize that most of the land we occupy once belonged to indigenous people.

“It was meaningful to see how a lot of people who gave talks recognized that it was [indigenous people’s] land, and that it was a call to action to consider the inequities around how people have been treated and how to right the wrongs of the past.” Ms. Nacionales said.

Reece Ollivierre (‘23) attended the SDLC this year, where she appreciated the space for student leaders to gather and explore issues of marginalized communities. The conference also offers a collaborative space and platform for people to share their identities and thoughts about issues within communities.

“My favorite event that I attended was the Black Affinity group,” Reece said. “Every day, 400 students who identified as black got together and shared their stories. We talked about what it means to be black in America, and how hard something like going to school could be, just because of the color of our skin. It really opened my eyes to the fact that racism is far from dead in America.”

She contributed novel ideas about dismantling systems of oppression to the group. Reece attended events that opened her eyes to the faults of school systems and ended evenings with community events that tied students together and allowed everyone to get to know each other more deeply.

Gabby Diaz (‘23) also attended SDLC and found the family groups events to be more interesting.

Gabby believes that Webb does a good job of promoting DEI, but there is still much more improvement to be made. She attended the East and Southeast Asian American affinity group.

“We discussed topics around the Asian identity like beauty standards, dating, mental health, model minority myth, fetishization, and being queer and Asian.” Gabby said.

These hosted events were incredibly important, as the perspectives honed and lessons learned are beneficial to the Webb community, teaching us about respecting communities, appreciating diversity, and more DEI topics. The PoCC left Ms. Nacionales amazed as she observed the journeys students had and enjoyed their conversations. She saw how much they were transformed by that experience and wished she could have brought everyone to the conference.

It is important to attend Empowering Student Voices Initiative meetings, a Webb student-founded club, especially if you are interested in SDLC topics. Asking students who attended the conference about the lessons they learned is useful to recognize how a singular person can impact a community. Ms. Nacionales hopes that in the future, SDLC attendees will be able to share and discuss all the information they received with the community.

“My biggest takeaway that I would like to share with the Webb community is to seek affinity. Finding people who are like-minded and understand what you feel is powerful. You may not even realize how isolated you have been until you have completely submerged yourself with people like you. Find a space where you don’t have to justify your existence. Find a space where you can be unapologetically you.” ”

— Reece Ollivierre ('23)