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Student Diversity Leadership Conference: A Memoir

Academy SDLC participants visit the Alamo (Courtesy/Shannon Walter) 

From November 30-December 3, over 7800 students and educators worldwide gathered in San Antonio, Texas, for the 35th annual Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) hosted by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). This multiracial and multicultural gathering focuses on making connections, social justice conversations, and self-reflecting. Attending from Academy Zaina A., Jackson A., Alexis C., Akshaj J., Yassah T., and me 

This year’s theme was “We the People–leveraging our community to preserve our humanity.” Throughout the three days, our discussions tied back to how it is more important than ever now to build a community and how we can use our voices to spread change.  

The organizers split students into “family groups” of around 45 people each, in which we discussed aspects of our identity including ability, age, family structure, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. In these spaces, our facilitators encouraged us to be honest, lean into discomfort, take risks, and suspend judgment of ourselves and others. I enjoyed the smaller group setting because it gave me a space to be vulnerable with my thoughts. 

We also spent time in our affinity groups, meeting new people and relating to each other’s experiences. It was refreshing to talk to peers who felt my exact emotions. The sense of community from this experience is something I will never forget. 

There were a few keynote speakers, but one, in particular, stuck with me the most. Amanda Nguyen, an accomplished entrepreneur and civil rights activist, spoke about her childhood and how she found the confidence to make an impact on the world. I had seen her story about rewriting the law around social media and was beyond excited to listen to her speak. 

I would like to thank Ms. Garita, Dr. Losambe, Ms. Porter and Ms. Walder for serving as our chaperones andmaking this experience possible. SDLC was impactful for me and others as we came together and bonded in three short days. I learned so much about myself and our world, inspiring me to take action within my community. The number of high school students gathered at the conference represents the future leaders of our society, and it filled me with hope that our generation lies in good hands.


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