By Cionnie ’22
This year, I was extremely lucky to attend the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) hosted by the National Association of Independent Schools. The conference brings together 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students and faculty from Independent Schools all over the country to build friendships, learn leadership skills, and self-reflect on our experiences in and out of school. It is a week-long conference where, usually, everyone participating travels to a different city every year. Last year, I attended the conference online but it did not diminish the experience. This year, it was online again, but I was able to stay at a hotel with other Los Angeles private schools while doing the conference on zoom. Harvard-Westlake students and other students were able to get to know one another between meetings and at meals. Within our Harvard-Westlake group, we went to have dinner together and had free time in the evenings before bed to connect. I joined a community of passionate social justice leaders and activists who inspired me to leave a mark at Harvard-Westlake. We had speakers and panel discussions with adults who reassured us that we were breaking barriers and trailblazing in the private school system. Not only was I motivated to create change, but I developed cross-cultural communication skills, strategies for social justice practice, and the understanding of the importance of allyship. I also had the pleasure of creating strong bonds with the faculty and other students from Harvard-Westlake who attended the conference with me. Since going, I’ve continued to have conversations with them and I’ve always had them as a support system at school. They have also helped me brainstorm ideas to bring back to the clubs and committees I lead: the Latin American/Hispanic Student Organization (LAHSO), Women of Color Club (WOCC), and the Student Leaders for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (SLIDE). I have also spent time with the other SDLC students and faculty from Harvard-Westlake after the conference was over. We presented to both the middle and high school faculty from Harvard-Westlake where we spoke of our experiences, what we learned, and proposed what changes we want to see at school in regard to diversity work. It was such a transformative experience for me and for my SDLC peers that we wish we could go again.