LC Students Attend Diversity Leadership Conference

Jordan Korn '22, Staff Writer

Once Thanksgiving Break ended, most students and faculty return to their routine back at Loomis Chaffee. This year, however, thirteen different members of the Loomis community instead went to Seattle, Washington. While there, members of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) engaged in “programming that allows people of color and allies in independent schools to come together, reflect on their individual experiences, and learn from each other,” according to the association’s website.

Known as the SDLC, the Student Diversity Leadership Conference is a “multicultural gathering of student leaders from across the U.S. and abroad,” where each school is represented by six students. To go to the conference, members of the Loomis community but their daily lives on pause and flew across the country – Simone Moales ‘21, who attended the SDLC, described the conference as a worthwhile and impactful experience. “After a couple of days engaging in dialogue around the year’s theme, I feel empowered to revive a fierce sense of urgency, strengthen foundations of allyship, and most importantly challenge passive rhetoric that discredits the magnitude of recurring tension (from social and racial identities) in the Loomis community.”

The adult equivalent of the SDLC, known as the NAIS People of Color Conference, was attended by Mr. Miles Morgan and Ms. Emily Garvin, two Loomis faculty members. While neither attended for the first time this year, both found the event to be just as impactful as it was their first time taking part. Mr. Morgan first went last year, “to get a sense of other people’s experiences and make sure that he wasn’t crazy” thinking that “being black in independent schools is actually hard.” For Mr. Morgan, “hearing other people’s stories was so validating,’ and being “with my [his] people was restorative, and gave me the strength to work another year.” This time around, Ms. Garvin actually attended for the fourth year in a row. “This is one of the only places where I get to be surrounded by so many other multiracial people – the experience is amazing and something I look forward to.”

Both Mr. Morgan and Ms. Garvin were impacted by the standout speech of Dr. Joy DeGruy, the POCC’s keynote speaker. At the opening of the conference, Dr. DeGruy spoke about “historical facts, hidden in plain sight.” For Mr. Morgan, it became clear that it is important for students “to question their education” and try to understand “why certain things make it to their textbooks or exams or assignments and others don’t.” For Ms. Garvin, the talk was a true highlight of attending the conference this year. Looking back, Ms. Garvin will surely be purchasing the coinciding book. 

In upcoming years, more Loomis students and faculty will be able to experience the conferences and thus reap the benefits. These gatherings are important because they serve as unique learning environments, where like-minded people with similar struggles can come together. For students and faculty alike, the PoCC and SDLC provide a community that can’t be found every day on the island, and be a space “where many of us [attendees] feel we can breathe, let our guard down, speak candidly about our experiences, and commiserate and find the strength to keep doing the work.” In Mr. Morgan’s eyes, the conference provides “options for mentors, older black educators who have been through worse than what I could go through” which cannot be found at a place like Loomis.