Op-Ed: Important conversations regarding race, identity and more at SDLC


Photo credit: NAIS promotional image

The 2020 Student Diversity Leadership Conference logo celebrated the 25th year of this conference.

By Andrea Ramirez, Staff Reporter

This past December, five Archer girls and I had the pleasure of attending the online Student Diversity Leadership Conference [SDLC] by the National Association of Independent Schools [NAIS]. Although it was virtual this year, that didn’t stop the conference from providing a safe space for all students who attended. 

As stated on the NAIS website, SDLC “focuses on self-reflecting, forming allies and building community.” This statement says it all. During the conference, I felt like I had finally found people that I could strongly connect and bond with when it came to my experiences at an independent school as well as my personal identity. 

I went into SDLC with an open mind, as I was not sure of what I should expect. I had heard older Archer students and alumni say it was one of the most beautiful experiences they’d ever had. Every morning I was excited to log on and listen to others speak, share my own experiences, and connect with different kinds of students across the world. 

For those four days from around 9 a.m until 5:30 p.m, I attended affinity groups, family groups and heard amazing guest speakers. In each group, I felt comfortable and hopeful as I got to meet wonderful people with whom I shared similar passions. The other students at SDLC showed so much ambition and persistence, which inspired me to find new ways to invoke change at Archer.

I want to express my gratitude to everyone that worked towards creating the conference because it is something difficult to do. There are so many conversations and topics to be discussed. Although everything couldn’t be covered throughout the week, SDLC was able to find ways to have meaningful and progressive conversations regarding race, identity and more.

Even in a virtual setting where students are tempted to keep cameras and microphones off, the SDLC community was able to keep the conversation flowing and have many active participants. As an affinity club leader at Archer, I know how difficult it is to do that over Zoom, so I was left extremely impressed.

The conference also prompted me to look at my experiences at Archer through a different lens. Some of my SDLC peers brought up the idea that simple things such as seeing fellow BIPOC teachers on campus positively impacted students of color at independent schools. That perspective influenced my way of thinking, and even today I catch myself smiling when I see teachers like Monica Barragan, a math teacher at Archer, pop up on my Zoom screen.

My last day at SDLC was bittersweet, to say the least. Tears were shed as we logged off of the Zoom sessions saying goodbye to people that we were able to create strong relationships within such a short period of time. My emotions were at an all-time high at the end of my Latinx Affinity Space. We had spent the last portion of our time together singing and dancing to artists such as Shakira, Mana, Jenni Rivera, and more. This was pretty out of my comfort zone as I would typically shy away from dancing in front of a big group of people, but at that moment I felt safe and loved. We ended off the meeting with a few goodbyes and that’s when the tears began. After hitting the red “leave meeting” button, I was met with the silence of my room and instantly missed the laughs and voices of my SDLC peers. But they were not all tears of sadness — they were also tears of joy, as I was filled with so much warmth.

After the conference, I found myself thinking about how beneficial conferences like SDLC would be if they were able to be more accessible. If all students in independent schools such as Archer were able to attend something similar and take in the important lessons and wonderful experience, I believe it would create a safer space for minority students overall.

I am beyond grateful to Archer and the NAIS for allowing me to participate in such a beautiful conference where I was able to learn and share my stories. Even in difficult times, the conference was able to bring me unexplainable amounts of joy and that is all because of my SDLC family.