The following are excerpts from chapel speeches given by Tabor's 2017 participants in the Student Diversity Leadership Conference. SDLC is a multiracial, multicultural gathering of upper school student leaders (grades 9 - 12) from across the United States. SDLC focuses on self-reflecting, forming allies, and building community. Led by a diverse team of trained adult and peer facilitators, participants will develop effective cross-cultural communication skills, better understand the nature and development of effective strategies for social justice, practice expression through the arts, and learn networking principles and strategies.
Alexa Smith '18
My life has been defined by a few days in the middle of December in a city I had never been to and may very well may never return to. The people I met and associated with at SDLC cared about me like most people have never done before. I think the reason I was able to make such strong bonds with them was because every one of those 1600 students was there with the same intentions and motives: to educate ourselves about differences, to stand up, and to speak out about injustices.
We had a shared, real interest and passion for wanting to make the world a better place for everyone, and at SDLC everyone was ready to actively push for change. They let me be comfortable in who I thought I was, but helped me figure out that who I thought I was and who I am are very different. I tricked myself into thinking that life is about inventing myself, but at SDLC I learned that who I am is a set ideal, it just takes some digging to figure out what that ideal truly is.
To aid me in my search of finding myself, my friends and I used the tools we learned at SDLC. There, I fully comprehended that as a white person, my life can be hard, but being white will never make it harder. My understanding of social issues has changed from unconsciously incompetent to consciously seeking answers and solutions to problems I previously didn’t even know existed. So now, when I hear things like “there’s no need for another conversation about race, for example, or I hate everyone equally, or I don’t want to sit through another speech about how I’m privileged, or I have a sad life too and I’m not depressed, I see the comments in a different light.
When we acknowledge that people identify differently and accept their experiences are different because of this, and that we might not understand them, but look deeper to see that these people are more than the identifiers they hold, we can discover we are yearning for the same things: acceptance, equality, understanding, and love.
Tenzin Chodak '18
...We started with activities to give everyone an opportunity to introduce themselves. With this activity came education and comprehension of different identities. We tried to understand where the stigmas of who we are come from and how that has no real power over us. We broke down the walls of what society defines as manhood. We learned of women's suffrage and how the fight still goes on today. We respectfully talked about politics with a variety of opinions. There was music, poetry, and dancing. With tears, smiles, and care all around, people even came out for the first time. We talked about so much more that I’m upset I don’t remember or have time to talk about. One thing for sure was there were absolutely no spectators. Only engaged contributors and future revolutionaries.
The last day of SDLC was dedicated to how we could bring what we learned back to our schools. This was a kicker for me, since I wasn’t feeling too hot about leaving such an environment to return to Tabor, where a lot of students haven’t had the experience. When we were asked what SDLC represented, I thought, “SDLC is a developing conversation.” As my peers at SDLC helped me understand, everyone is also developing and shaping their morals. If we want to create a more supportive place for growth, all we got to do is be the ones brave enough to start a conversation. Love everybody, spread the word.
Hanna Liu '18
...I cried every morning during the keynote speeches as each of them revealed what's under the curtain of a window I never knew existed. I would crazily scribble down all the new information and the amazing life quotes.
-Rodney Glasgow, the main speaker of the conference said, “When it comes down to you and me, I want you and I to pick us.”
-Another wise student said, “Stereotypes are just incomplete stories.”
I was for once truly in a judge-free-zone, despite surrounded by the most diverse 50 kids they could cram into a hotel conference room. There were privileged kids, like me, daughter of dentists; and my new friend Liz, daughter of a housekeeper. There were East Asians, South Asians, and Asian Americans. And I realized that us international students are a whole new species of Asians that need to start caring more about the diversity and social problems in the US because coming from countries of homogeneous populations, we really don’t know what it’s like struggling with diversity.
Despite coming from such opposite backgrounds, we had full respect for each other and we had an amazing time together.
Lili Vazquez '18
I want to start by saying that SDLC was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I know many of you have already heard this and are probably sick of hearing it, but why do you think we talk about this every year? It’s probably because this conference is important and very life changing. During my time in Atlanta, I really started to notice how happy I was as I felt free to do and say whatever I wanted. I knew there were students who support me, even though we barely knew each other. I tend to describe this feeling as taking off a mask that no one knew was there. Everyone at that conference took off their masks and noticed how powerful we actually were, especially together. Now I know some of you may view this as “concerning,” but I simply view it as unity. Being able to connect with each individual at the conference in two days, surprised me because I realized that we were all going through very similar things and the best way of dealing with our situations was to support one another. And we are.
Kellie Navaro '19
Going to SDLC gave me the chance to embrace the stories and opinions of others, learn from their experiences and build close relationships in such little time. As we began each activity and discussion, in the back of my mind I thought, “This is a conference focused on diversity, but all of these students are from expensive independent schools.”
I realize that this is a very close-minded thought, however, coming from a public school system and witnessing the experiences of many of my peers from home, I knew that opinions and stories of those in a different education system would add much to the conference. In an activity called the privilege walk in which you step forward or backwards depending on the statement and those in front experienced more privileges, I was proved wrong because the range of people varied significantly. I was still second to last, but I didn’t feel “different” because people in my group were close to me despite my previous thoughts that all students were going to have distinct experiences from me...
Seeing the impact that these activities and conversations had on my peers from Tabor proved to be the most touching and pivotal moments of SDLC and aided in my relationship-building with Tenzin, Hana, Alexa, Lili and Lachlan. Through the most vulnerable moments of our short lives, we were able to disregard the feelings of discomfort and work together to find ways to impact the lives of student and teachers at Tabor the way that SDLC impacted our lives.