Effort is the Key to Change: Nichols School Diversity Conference

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About a year ago, juniors Jill Daniels and Maia Manney returned to school buzzing with the desire to share the new information and ideas they learned at conferences with the Nichols community. Jill freshly back from the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) and Maia from the National Federation for Just Communities (NFJC) as well as a, then dubbed BISSNET (now Education Collaborative or EDCO) Conference at The Park School, saw their information as beneficial to our school. Both having had positive experiences, they thought, what better place to have a diversity conference than Nichols? Hoping to positively impact schools in the EDCO community, they began by talking to teachers about the idea of a conference at Nichols and later took it to our Head of School, Mr. Clough. Being the supportive Head he is, he reminded them of how big the decision is by saying, “This is going to be difficult.” They then discussed what the necessary aspects of a conference were: who do we want there, what is the agenda, why are we doing this and a plethora of other demanding questions. Once they figured out the details, a presentation for the Administrative Cabinet was arranged. More ideas were tossed around regarding speakers’ names and activities. After many changes, the final copy was presented to the Board of Trustees. They awaited the Board’s response to their demands. News came back and now there was money, facilities and access to be utilized. Things really got down to business after that. Manney says, “Mr. Clough was right, it was a lot of work.”

The theme of the conference was “The Characteristics of a Dream School: what would make a student most comfortable as a person in their school.” They found that a big problem in schools are microagressions. A microagression is a form of unintended discrimination, usually depicted by the use of social norms, but has the same effect as intended discrimination. The conference revolved around facing this issue and how to properly respond to it. When faced with a situation like so, it is best to let the “aggressor” know how what they said affected you and why. Great examples as such were taught at the conference. Morgan Baker, a sophomore at Buffalo Seminary described our speaker, Rodney Glasgow’s speech as follows: “I feel like the stories he told were lessons on prejudice and privilege, but he told his story in a way that didn’t require using the words pride nor privilege. He made diversity work accessible by explaining what intolerance feels like.” The overall consensus was that a dream school is simply a dream, but as we educate each other properly and become more accepting and understanding of others, we can come very close to such a dream.

A massive thank you to Ms. Barone, Ms. Gardner, Mr. Powers, Dr. Ousley, Ms. Vallas, Mr. Walsh, Ms. Jackson Gibson, Mr. Clough, Ms. Kern, Mr. Montesano, Mr. Kianka, Dr. Steinzor, Sage Dining, Dr. Rockwell, the Board of Trustees, the Cabinet, Mr. Errickson, Mr. McCarthy, Mr. Dolan, Mrs. Kelley, Mr. Socha, Ms. Crowell, Ms. Habelt, EDCO, all the parents involved and all the students who attended; none of this would have been possible without all of your help. Change is only possible with the support of those who care and see the potential of the endeavor. We cannot thank you all enough.

By Nicole Luko ’16

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