Thacher seniors champion diversity.
Seniors Natasha Brown and Maya Wilcox organized and hosted Thacher's first ever diversity conference as part of their upcoming Senior Exhibition. The Senior Exhibition Program has Thacher seniors delve deeply into a topic of their own interest and choosing. These projects span the majority of the year—starting with topic development in the fall, research in the winter, and presentations in the spring (just a couple short weeks away!). While Natasha and Maya will still present on the weekend of April 21 and 22 with the rest of their class, their work came to a culminating point a few weeks earlier.
Natasha's and Maya's Student Diversity Conference provided a structured forum for students and faculty to gather and devote time to discussing the important topics of diversity and inclusion at Thacher and beyond. The full-day event included keynote speaker Jules Greene and many opportunities to break up into small discussion groups. In addition to the many Thacher student participants and facilitators, Natasha and Maya welcomed participants from the Cate School and Besant Hill.
In an interview regarding the diversity conference, Natasha and Maya offered the following:
What inspired you to organize and run a diversity conference at Thacher?
Two years ago, we attended SDLC, the Student Diversity Leadership Conference, run by the National Association of Independent Schools. Our experiences there were life changing and made us want to create a similar experience for all students at Thacher.
How much time did it take to organize this event?
Since it was part of our Senior Exhibition, we technically began working on it in September. However, most of our research was done in the months of December, January, and a bit in February. The conference planning was almost entirely done in the month of March.
How does your work with regard to the diversity conference connect to your senior exhibitions?
The diversity conference is our senior exhibition. Our presentation is titled: The Greater Good Project: Designing a Diversity Conference. During our presentation we will be going over the process of designing and hosting the whole thing.
What were some things that you learned through this process?
We learned a lot of lessons about planning, especially that during signups, we needed to be more clear about our expectations for the participants. However, we also learned that no matter the size of the conference or the discussion groups, people still had meaningful and productive discussions around diversity.
Did you have a specific goal or something that you hoped to achieve through the diversity conference?
Our goals at the beginning of the conference were to educate our community and communities around us about diversity and to provide a space for students to feel comfortable discussing their thoughts and experiences surrounding diversity and inclusion.
Did anything surprise you?
We were surprised at how much participants actually got out of our conference. Almost all of the participants expressed how valuable the experience was to them and how great the discussions they had were. One facilitator even reported that her family group "collectively felt that the discussion they had at the conference was the best discussion they had ever had." And one participant in the survey stated, "this was life changing!"
Junior Pa Houa Xiong, one of Thacher's student facilitators commented, "I learned a lot about other perspectives in regards to certain topics concerning race, sexual orientation, and euphemisms. It was very interesting as a facilitator to realize the diversity of thought processes seen among Thacher students, as well as to compare Thacher students' perspectives and realizations to students outside of Thacher, those of which came from Cate and Besant Hill. Jules Greene was especially outstanding as a speaker. I really enjoyed her explanations and responses to topics about internationality and socially constructed concepts."