Seven Gilman students participated in the Middle School Student Leadership in Diversity Conference, held virtually on Wednesday, April 6. This year’s theme was “Our World, Our Space, Our Place.” Also in attendance were members of the Community, Inclusion, and Equity (CIE) team: Director Johnnie Foreman, Assistant Director Joe Valentine-White, and administrative assistant Tangie Mason, as well as Middle School Dean of Faculty and Student Life Nicole Mitchell, who helped found the conference, now an annual event, in 2016.
The conference supports sixth through eighth graders from Maryland-area independent schools and their Middle Grades Partnership (MGP) public partner schools. Students take part in presentations about identity exploration and other topics, as well as small group activities based on skill building around identity, voice, and community led by student leaders.
Attendees heard keynote speaker Priyanka Rupani, an anti-bias and anti-racist educator and school administrator in Chicago, talk about racial healing and radical hope.
Following the conference, Osai C. ’28 said he liked the “silent movement” activity where students expressed how they identified themselves. Going forward, he hopes to “help people be themselves at all times no matter what.” John C. ’26 liked the part when students went into smaller breakout groups on the Zoom — called “family rooms,” covering topics like “Knowing Ourselves” and “Using Our Voices” — which created a “good environment” for the participants. He plans to continue to pursue CIE and diversity work in the future.
Solomon B. ’28 said his biggest takeaway was that everyone deserves to be treated with respect. Coming away from the conference, his intention is to “never make people feel uncomfortable about who they are.”