“Life-changing,” “amazing,” “eye-opening,” and “invigorating” were some of the words that members of a King school delegation of students, faculty, and staff used to describe their experience at the NAIS People of Color Conference (PoCC) and the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC), which took place in San Antonio, Texas, from November 30 through December 3.
“I was extremely excited for our students as the SDLC is a lottery every year, so we were very fortunate to have been selected to attend,” said Dr. Clyde Beverly, King School’s Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging.
Sponsored by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) is an annual multiracial, multicultural gathering of upper school student leaders in grades 9-12 from across the country and abroad. According to NAIS, “SDLC focuses on self-reflecting, forming allies, and building community.”
For Maddy Beck ’23, the best part of attending was interacting with and learning from other students who attend independent schools like King and bring a wide diversity of backgrounds and experiences. “I walked away from SDLC feeling grounded in some beliefs and questioning others, but overall renewed in my want to make a difference and create change within my community,” she said.
Ivan Gupta ’23 noted that his favorite part of the conference was participating in the multiracial affinity group. “It was wonderful to relate to each other's experiences. I got to meet another Indian/Hispanic person, which was great, as we could talk about the similar struggles we faced when it came to discovering our own identity,” Ivan shared.
Other King students in attendance were Kioja Duff ’25, Marcus Watts ’23, Jax Wentworth ’24, and Ben Yu ’23.
English teacher and DEIB Coordinator Lindsay Stone referenced a part of the conference when students present what they have learned during the conference to adult attendees from their school. “I was blown away by the thoughtful comments made by King students during this portion of the conference,” said Stone, adding that the students spoke with “courage and conviction.”
Occurring at the same time was NAIS’ People of Color Conference (PoCC), which focuses on increasing awareness, education, and commitment to equity and justice in teaching, learning, and organizational development in independent schools.
Head of Lower School Dr. Sandy Lizaire-Duff and Grade 5 teacher Hannah Robbertz led an equity seminar and a workshop alongside educational consultant and writer Monique Vogelsang.
Titled “A Multiracial Approach: Designing and Implementing a PK-5 Curriculum That Elevates and Empowers Students,” the presentation highlighted the challenges and successes they have had designing and implementing a culturally responsive curriculum in a PreK-12 school that also embraces other frameworks, such as Reggio Emilia and project-based learning.
“Teachers and administrators often think that the PreK-5 age group is too young to discuss certain issues. However, when approached and taught in an age-appropriate way, the students are able to understand and learn how to be a better friend and a good citizen,” Dr. Sandy Lizaire-Duff said.
“At King, we value exposing and teaching our students about the global world. It’s in our mission that we want to prepare our students for the rapidly changing world,” added Robbertz. “We can’t do that if they don’t know about the world.”
Grade 1 teacher Kevin Wilkinson described the experience as “life-changing.” “To be surrounded by over 7,000 teachers, students, and administrators all from diverse backgrounds but with a singular mission to celebrate our differences in our schools was wonderful. I learned so much and felt affirmed in the work that I am attempting to do for the children at King,” Wilkinson said.
For upper school English teacher Adam Boaz the conference was “invigorating.”
“I walked away with a rekindled love of the profession that I have chosen,” he said. “I also came away with a greater awareness that the diversity, experience, and expertise that People of Color bring to Independent Schools greatly enhances the quality of those schools!”
Also attending the conference was Karen Raidt, Assistant Director of Global Education, Director of King Cares Service, and Student Services.
According to the National Association for Independent Schools (NAIS), “more than 7,800 adults and students from independent schools across the country gathered to learn, collaborate, and support one another.”
“I hope those who attended felt affirmed not only in their own sense of identity but also in the great work we are doing here at King,” Beverly said.
Lizaire-Duff echoed the sentiment. “I am in awe at how much we've accomplished and the work we're continuing to do at King to ensure that our students have a joyful, engaging, and inclusive learning experience.”