“A New View on Almost Everything:” Students Reflect on Transformative SDLC Trip

To start winter trimester, Lucy Selby, ’20, Gabi Quintero, ’20, and Emma Williams, ’19, ventured to Nashville, Tennessee with Ms. Rachael Jennings, Director of Equity and Inclusion, for the National Association of Independent Schools’ Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) and concurrent People of Color Conference (PoCC).

This year marked SDLC’s twenty-fifth anniversary. SDLC—themed “Listening for the Grace Note: Finding Harmony Amid Cacophony” this year—is a multiracial, multicultural gathering of upper school student leaders from across the U.S. and abroad; the conference focuses on self-reflecting, forming allies, and building community. Led by a diverse team of trained adult and peer facilitators, participating students develop cross-cultural communication skills, design effective strategies for social justice practice through dialogue and the arts, and learn the foundations of allyship and networking principles. Sessions ran from for at least twelve hours a day, and over the course of three conference days, everyone learned a tremendous amount.

Over the course of four enriching, transformative days in Nashville, Jennings, Selby, Quintero, and Williams learned from sagacious speakers, engaged in critical affinity spaces, listened from workshop leaders, and reflected in ways that gave them insight, strength, and the clarity to bring courageous action home to Dublin.

“SDLC meant a lot of things to me, but an important one was seeing so many people coming together to hear and listen to and see People of Color and to listen to their experiences,” says Lucy Selby, ’20. “That was really powerful to witness and to be a part of. And then I learned a lot about how to be the right kind of ally who supports and listens to People of Color but also knows how to step down and to listen to People of Color speak.”

Gabi Quintero, ’20, notes that “SDLC taught [her] so much more than [she] ever thought [she] would get out of a conference.” She elaborates, “The energy from the strangers all going through similar things in one place was the most powerful thing I have ever experienced. It made me think about parts of myself I hadn’t considered before and listen to other people’s views. I got inspired by everyone there because everyone was playing the role as leader, unafraid to use their voice and to make a change. The Latinx affinity space was the most moving experience I received from SDLC because it made me feel at home and supported. I made bonds with people I not only deeply connected with on so many levels, but also with people I didn’t have anything in common with. It was a beautiful experience I know I’ll never forget and for which I’ll always be grateful.”

“Love is what I took away from SDLC most,” adds Selby. “I’ve never felt so much love at once, and I don’t think I ever will again, but I’ll try to always carry it with me and share it with my own communities. I’ve learned how to be more comfortable and vulnerable with people around me because I know that there are people, even if they are now far away in different states, who are always supporting me from afar.”

“SDLC was a life-changing experience that gave me a new view on almost everything, including myself,” says Emma Williams, ’19. “It challenged me to look deeper at who I am and what I believe, and I found things I have never known. One thing they told us was to take pride in our identities. Since I’ve returned from Nashville, I’ve found myself standing straighter and feeling more in tune with myself. I’ve been able to find the courage to share more of myself with others and a deeper drive to help the people around me find the same part of themselves as I discovered at SDLC. I am forever thankful.”