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SAAS Students and Faculty Attend Annual NAIS People of Color Conference (PoCC) and Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC)

Article Written By: Taylor Kanemori, Director of Equity and Inclusion, and Danae Howe, Assistant Division Head of Middle School

We were excited for the twenty-five of our faculty and staff members who attended this year’s virtual People of Color Conference (PoCC) and six Upper School students at the parallel Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC). Despite being online, the experience was still felt by all who attended. PoCC and SDLC are annual conferences hosted by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). Although the conferences have been running for thirty-plus years, this was the first time it was held virtually. The pandemic has forced us all to adapt and be flexible, and it was amazing to see this happen on this large of a scale. Over 7,600 students and adults attended this year, making it the biggest year yet.  

For four days, our students met kids from Independent schools all over the country and were able to connect, share experiences, and gain tools of facilitation and creating community to bring back to our school and their various spaces. All of the students who attended are also involved in the student affinity group spaces and are specifically looking forward to bringing some of the ideas back to those spaces this year.

PoCC was a mix of interactive sessions and webinar-style presentations. It was great to still be able to see some familiar faces and connections from previous years attending the conference, and the inclusive and warm atmosphere was still alive and well. Eddie Glaude, professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, was the opening keynote speaker and used the words of James Baldwin like scripture when talking about teaching in this moment of not only a pandemic, but also continued racial unrest and calls for social and racial justice. Lyla June, an Indigenous environmental scientist, doctoral student, educator, community organizer, and musician of Diné (Navajo), Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne), and European lineages from Taos, NM, was also a keynote speaker who talked to us about how to meaningfully and responsibly acknowledge and pay homage to Indigenous people and land in our institutions. Students and adults were all present at the end when Dr. Bettina Love closed the conference with powerful and thought-provoking words on what it means to create abolitionist schools. She asked us to not just tell the tough histories of our Black communities, which are important, but to be sure to also tell the stories of joy, excellence, and ingenuity. Dr. Love’s talk made us ask ourselves how do we give the students the power without making them carry the burden of doing all of the work? 

PoCC and SDLC continue to be an essential part of the year for those who attend, and we are always grateful for the opportunity to send so many of our faculty and staff. For the students, SDLC is a pivotal point in many of their high school experiences and allows them to take a deeper dive into subjects and interests that they are already craving, and they return fired up and eager to start using everything they have learned.  Next year the conference will (hopefully!) be in-person, hosted in Baltimore, Maryland, and we are looking forward to it!

View the official conference hashtag #NAISPOCC

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