Each year, students from the St. Louis area join Upper School students on the MICDS campus for the Student Diversity Leadership Conference. “The Diversity Leadership Conference is a great opportunity for our students to work with students from local schools and engage in meaningful conversations and programming” said Changa Bey, Upper School History Teacher. This year, 25 area schools took part in the day-long conference that was held on Friday, February 24. Students from schools including Affton, Clayton, De Smet, Kirkwood, Lutheran North, Nerinx Hall, SLUH, and Whitfield spent time in a variety of engaging activities. “Our students created and led the conference experience. They united schools in our community to discuss a variety of topics that contributed to their own unique identities” said Stephanie Matteson, Upper School Science Teacher. MICDS Students facilitated games and small group discussions in order to learn new strategies and build leadership skills that make our schools, cities, and communities a better place for all.
Students in the MICDS iDentity group led the peer sessions and directed conversations on topics such as inclusion, community and school leadership, systemic racism, ageism, sexism, classism, and more. “Students at MICDS have an excellent foundation in this type of work” said Nicole Trueman-Shaw, Director of Upper School Student Leadership. “They want to share their skills with others in the area who may not have the opportunity to attend the National Diversity Leadership Conference hosted by NAIS each year.”
“The goal was to design an inviting and impactful conference experience to reach the community celebrating each person’s individual identities – answering the question ‘Who am I?’ – which I think they achieved” Mrs. Matteson added.
Mr. Bey spoke to the conference about how to approach people in power. “For students attempting to impact and sometimes challenge long standing traditions, the thought of bringing ideas to institutional leaders can be scary. In my presentation, I hoped that students could takeaway some key points and strategies to make that process less so” Mr. Bey said.
Michelle Li, a news anchor with KSDK, was this year’s headline speaker. Ms. Li spoke about the racism and discrimination she has faced in public and private moments based on her Asian ethnicity, and she shared how those experiences helped her launch the Very Asian Foundation – a non-profit focused on shining a light on all walks of Asian life.
What a wonderful example of our students meeting the challenges of the world with confidence and compassion. Mr. Bey underscores that point, “These students are caring, thoughtful and really lean into the schools mission of living lives of purpose and service and standing for what is good and right.”
The 2023 Student Diversity Leadership Conference, hosted by the National Association of Independent Schools, will be held here in St. Louis from November 29–December 2.