Upper School Leaders Host Virtual Diversity Leadership Conference

Lauren Douglas ’21 and Amani Hendricks ’21 first joined the iDentity Club their freshman year. When they were sophomores, they helped plan a Diversity Leadership Conference with leaders from the class of 2020. Today, they serve as co-heads, running the club and planning the conference for this year only with the new challenges served up by a pandemic. They took it virtual, and on Friday, April 16, they gathered online to lead a vibrant discussion.

“Our theme for this year—Putting the Pieces Back Together: Unifying the Community—was created based on all that has happened since the start of COVID to now,” explained Hendricks. “Whether it was because of the many injustices we’ve seen, the election, or simply how COVID has affected many communities, it’s been a time when things seemingly spiraled out of control,” she said. They wanted to explore some of the biggest topics to come from this past year while also integrating issues that have been happening for centuries.

“We knew that so much happened in the past year from policing issues to the disproportionate effects of COVID on people of color, and we felt that it was important to have discussions about these topics with our classmates,” said Douglas. “Our theme was Putting the Pieces Back Together: Unifying the Community and that’s exactly what we were hoping to accomplish. We wanted to provide a space where students could share their own perspectives and grow from the views their peers had.”

Douglas and Hendricks created a promotional video to explain the conference and invite their fellow students:

All Upper School students were welcome to participate, and an intimate group gathered with a robust agenda. After a welcome and introductions, the participants went into breakout rooms to discuss their first topic: the influence of social media on social justice. The second breakout session included discussions on the different protests that have happened in the past year and how to unify after the election. Everyone returned to the main meeting room to be led in a general discussion by Ms. Erica Moore, Director of Faculty Equity & Inclusion and Director of Student Activities, and the faculty moderator for the iDentity Club. This was an “open mic” discussion, time for participants to share what was on their minds and continue the conversations that happened in the breakout rooms.

Douglas said, “My favorite part of the conference was the small group discussions at the end of each session. I loved how everyone was passionate about what they were saying, but also they were listening to everyone else’s perspectives.”

Moore guided the iDentity team through the planning process and then the event, working closely with the student leaders to create an engaging program. “I am so proud of our iDentity co-heads, Lauren Douglas and Amani Hendricks. Even in a pandemic, they worked diligently with the iDentity members to make sure our Upper School students had the opportunity to engage in these very important conversations,” she said. “Our iDentity student facilitators did an excellent job putting tough subjects in front of their peers and having thoughtful discussions that allowed all in the space to share their perspectives and learn from one another. Even in a virtual environment, they continue to advance the good work of equity and inclusion in our community.”

“The most surprising aspect of the conference was the response and engagement we received from the students who chose to attend,” said Hendricks. “I had the opportunity to hear from students who I probably would not have had the chance to interact with if it weren’t for the conference. It was good to see many underclassmen attend because now I am confident that there are at least a few students who can carry on iDentity and the Diversity Conference at MICDS.”