PDS Faculty and Students Prioritize Connection and Community at Virtual People of Color and Student Diversity Leadership Conferences

Each year, Princeton Day School encourages a large group of faculty and students to attend the National Association of Independent Schools’ People of Color Conference (PoCC) and Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC). While the pandemic necessitated a virtual set of conferences this year, the impact was powerful and truly valued by all who attended. Through laptop screens and desktop monitors, powerful messages surrounding leadership, social-emotional health, equity and justice were shared and received by all who attended.

The PoCC offers critically important educational and relationship-building opportunities for participants. “With seminars, a master class, and more than 100 workshops on diverse topics relevant to people of color in independent schools, PoCC equips educators at every level, from teachers to trustees with new skills. You’ll leave with knowledge and experiences to improve the interracial, interethnic, and intercultural climate in your school, which will have a positive impact on the academic, social-emotional, and workplace performance outcomes for students and adults alike,” the PoCC website states.

An important aspect of attending the conferences is meeting up with other colleagues who also attended and debriefing about the experience. These opportunities at PDS included morning faculty check ins, an after-school meet-up at The Meeting House, a Princeton institution beloved by the PDS community as it is owned by PDS parents Amanda Maher and Amar Gautam (P’28, P’30, P’34), a Lower School faculty meeting, and a lunchtime debriefing session in the Upper School library, during which attendees were given many opportunities to explore how the conference impacted them personally and professionally. 

First-time PDS attendee Ashleigh Young, Learning Specialist and School Psychologist for the Lower School, was among the many faculty who debriefed together about the lasting impact of the conference: “I pride myself on being an advocate for children and I spent a good portion of the conference reflecting on my own experiences and also considering some of the experiences our students of color are having. I realized that being an advocate also means taking a critical look at how we are identifying and implementing supports to address the unique experiences of BIPOC students, particularly at the Lower School. I am also challenged to do some self-work and education around biases and prejudices that I may have. I think to sum it up, it would be moving from simply saying ‘diversity matters’ to really practicing and implementing systems to support diversity across many areas, such as gender, learning, ethnicity, religion, sexuality and more.” 

Although this year’s attendees did not have the chance to make PDS student-faculty connections at this year’s virtual conference, unlike the opportunities that are built into the in-person PoCC and SDLC conferences, the PDS students who attended emerged from the virtual experience energized and connected with students from other schools across the country and the globe. The annual goal of the SDLC is to create a multiracial, multicultural gathering of high school student leaders (grades 9-12) from across the U.S. and abroad focused on self-reflecting, forming allies and building community.

PDS students selected to participate this year included Ziya ‘23, Joseph ‘22, Andre ‘22, Gabriella ‘22, and Tyler ‘22. Each found the experience to be enriching and powerful. Joseph says, “My biggest takeaway from the SDLC was that we're not nearly as alone as we think we are. Even virtually, it was an incredible experience to see so many people who shared my opinions and identified in a similar way. In a high school environment, it can sometimes be hard to remember that there are other people like you if you aren't surrounded by them constantly. I hope I've created a space like that over my years at PDS and that I can strengthen it even more before I graduate.”

For more information about diversity, equity and inclusion at PDS, including updates on recent initiatives, see Our Journey: Teaching and Learning for Social Justice.

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