Students attend Diversity Conference in California

Photo courtesy of Saleha Farooqui

Several representatives from Choate traveled to Anaheim, California for the Student Diversity Leadership Conference.

From November 30 to December 2, a group of Choate students and faculty traveled to Anaheim, California to attend the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) and the People of Color Conference (PoCC) to learn about the topic of diversity. The conference was focused in part on how to bring new perspectives back home and raise diversity awareness. Participant, Saleha Farooqui ’18, explained, “We did a lot of activities surrounding core cultural identifiers: race/ethnicity, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, ability, and sexual orientation. Each of them sparked a lot of discussion, and over the course of the three days, we covered all of these identifiers.”

At SDLC, students were separated into groups to discuss topics surrounding diversity and share personal stories. One activity, in particular, involved forming “affinity groups,” in which participants were separated by an identifier of their choice for the discussion. Mr. Filipe Camarotti, a Choate science teacher who went on the trip, explained, “This is a time for you to be with people like you, so you can talk about the experience of being you.”

One of the biggest aspects of the conference that Choate students took away from this experience was reflecting on their own lives and personal privilege. Lani Uyeno ’19, another student at the conference, said, “After hearing people’s personal stories with diversity identifiers, I realized that I am privileged in more than just a financial way.”

While the students took part in their respective workshops, the faculty in attendance had their own scheduled day of activities. After dropping off the students with their chaperones, the faculty attended PoCC. Here, adults met and listened to different keynote speakers, many of whom are activists. One example is Kimberlé Crenshaw, a scholar of law and cultural studies who popularized the term intersectionality.

After hearing presentations from the speakers, faculty had the choice to go to workshops that taught how to better diversify the curriculum and support students. “It is an amazing opportunity to be with people that excite you and that you can learn from in numerous different ways,” said Mr. Camarotti.

After attending SDLC, students and faculty were inspired to bring what they learned back to Choate and possibly alter our Diversity Day. “Back on campus, we want to change how Diversity Day is done at Choate, though we are not sure how we will be able to recreate the same atmosphere as SDLC,” explained Farooqui.

Mr. Camarotti added, “Diversity is just not talked about or integrated into independent schools as much as we would like it to be or as we feel is necessary.”

This year’s SDLC participants agree that the conference is a great way for any student to learn about the personal experiences of others and reflect on their diverse perspectives. Uyeno said, “I think these conversations will bring the community closer together and help us realize that we are privileged in many different ways.”

Farooqui concluded, “It is truly intense yet rewarding because of the open and honest atmosphere, and I hope every Choate student is able to go to it.”


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