Students attend Student Diversity Leadership Conference


Submitted by Ethan Dincer

Journalist Lisa Ling speaks to the conference of students.

Annika Rock, The Rubicon Editor

Basking in Tennessee’s sweater weather, six Upper School students and three faculty members attended the Student Diversity Leadership Conference in Nashville, Nov. 28 – Dec. 1 with 1700 other independent school members from around the country. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the SDLC conference, which SPA has attended for 15 years, according to US Director of Intercultural Life Karen Dye.

“I feel like everyone’s experience is different, but I feel like you learn a lot about yourself and about how to interact with communities of people and with other students. And it’s just a place where everyone has something in common,” sophomore Karla Garcia said of the conference as a whole.

This year’s theme was Listening for the Grace Note: Finding Harmony within Cacophony. During the conference, attendees worked to improve their communication skills across different cultures and topics, create social justice strategies to use throughout life, and make connections with like-minded people. Students were put into three different groups over the course of the conference: affinity groups, regional groups and family groups. Within these groups students had discussions, played games, and performed exercises. This gathering of multiracial and multicultural students is taught by a skilled and diverse team of adults. The students participated in many different activities, such as listening to notable guest speakers like Lisa Ling from CNN and Christian Picciolini, an “ex-skinhead and white supremacist who now works to reform young white supremacists out of neo-Nazi groups,” according to senior Ethan Dincer. Guest speakers shared specific events that occurred in their lives that they thought were important for students to hear. 

Submitted by Ethan Dincer
Senior Ethan Dincer, junior Arie Walker, sophomore Gabriella Thompson, senior Rachel Johnson, sophomore Karla Garcia and senior Imran Umer pose for a photo.

Students chose to attend affinity groups that aligned with one or more pieces of their identity.

“My favorite part was the affinity groups that I went to because it’s really amazing to be in a room full of people that look like you and share your experiences,” sophomore Gabriella Thompson said. “That was kind of a first for me, coming from a primarily white institution. It was really incredible to be in that environment where it is was super diverse and everyone was really supportive and willing to be vulnerable and open.”

There were approximately 10 affinity groups that met throughout the four days. Most groups focused mainly on racial and ethnic backgrounds, but some also focused on sexual identity or family structure. Each affinity group contained as few as 40 or up to 200 students.

For students planning on going to SDLC, I would say that one of the biggest takeaways is that you are not alone. Too often as students of color, we feel isolated and without community in our independent schools. SDLC really shows students how to not only do the work for racial equity in schools, but also how to do the work while still maintaining a sense of yourself. I think that sometimes when students, especially those of color, try to improve the communities around them, they forget to take care of themselves. SDLC instills the the sense that we are all in this fight together, which is a reminder of how you aren’t alone,” Dincer said.

SDLC provided a space for students from Minnesota and outside of Minnesota to bond and make connections.  

“I enjoyed SDLC a lot. It was… life changing,” Garcia said.