Rectory Students Attend Diversity Leadership Conference

PIECES OF THE PUZZLE: The mission of the S.D.L.C. event is to bring students from grades 7-12 and adults from independent schools across the state together for a day of networking and dialogue, facilitating cross-cultural understanding and a call to action to improve our school communities and our world. (

PIECES OF THE PUZZLE: The mission of the S.D.L.C. event is to bring students from grades 7-12 and adults from independent schools across the state together for a day of networking and dialogue, facilitating cross-cultural understanding and a call to action to improve our school communities and our world. (

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On Saturday, April 5, 2014, two teachers and several students from Rectory School attended a Student Diversity Leadership Conference (S.D.L.C.) in New Haven, Connecticut, sponsored by the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools (CAIS). Rectory science teacher, Ms. Morano, and history teacher, Mr. Ducksworth, both of whom are members of The Rectory School Diversity Committee, accompanied the following eighth-grade students to the conference: Lucy C., Jessica N., Isaac T., Ransford N., Thayne H., and Sterling H. There were about 500 people at this conference, including high school, middle school, and college students, as well as teachers and administrators. Students learned that other people have different ways of thinking and acting. They also learned that it is okay to be different, and that sometimes you may have issues or problems because of who you are or what group you belong to. Learning how to deal with such situations and learning to be tolerant of others, then, is crucial in today’s society.

About the Conference  – (Source, CAIS website:

Marking the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s March on Washington, this year’s annual conference was a student-and-adult diversity conference featuring student entertainment, a keynote address, small group discussions facilitated by and for students, and workshops for adults. The purpose of the conference was:

• to connect students of color and students committed to the cause with peers in other schools

• to strengthen the informal network of those committed to diversity in Connecticut

• to supplement national activities with a regional activity

• to facilitate conversation between students and their teachers

• to give our student leaders a forum for dialogue and action with other students representing the diversity of CAIS schools (boarding / day / single sex / secular and non-secular…)

Conference attendees reflected not only on how far this nation has come with regard to civil rights, but they also had frank conversations about how far we have yet to go. They discussed the question, “What are some of the important civil rights of our time, 50 years forward?”

The keynote address was given by two-time March on Washington participant, Dolores Burgess, who gave conference attendees a glimpse into what the scene was like just over 50 years ago, as she boarded a bus with fellow members of the NAACP in Port Chester, NY, to Washington, D.C.

Ariel Luckey, referred to as “one of the most provocative thought leaders from the field of hip-hop oriented performance art” illustrated some pressing topics in our news today. He walked the audience through the danger of Amnesia, which, according to Mr. Luckey, “asks what happens when we forget who we are and where we come from, when public policy is based on historical amnesia.” He attempted to get conference participants to think differently about race and immigration in this country.

The workshop breakout sessions were designed to challenge students’ thinking about contemporary civil rights. The group GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network) was invited to the conference, as well as the Adult Breakout host, Dr. Gary Ford, who showed the screening of his film, “Justice is a Black Woman: The Life And Work of Constance Baker Motley” to the adults at the conference. The film brings together the life and work of the only woman attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Constance-Baker Motley. This documentary chronicles the life and work of Motley, an “unsung” hero of the civil rights movement. The students at the conference watched a different film about people from countries all over the world(Source, CAIS website:

After the Conference –

The DiRectory interviewed Ms. Morano, Mr. Ducksworth, and the students who attended the conference, so that you could “hear” in their own words what they learned from this conference and why it was important for them to be participants.

Ms. Morano’s Interview:

DiRectory: Why did you choose these particular students to attend the Student Diversity Leadership Conference? What qualities were you looking for in the students when you were choosing whom to bring? What qualities did you see in these students that made you want them to come along?

Ms. Morano: I conferred with other teachers at Rectory. We looked for students who represented a variety of ethnicities and nationalities, and whom we thought might be wonderful leaders for our Rectory students in the future. We were looking for students with leadership abilities, students with a sense of adventure, and students whom we thought would be gregarious with other students in exchanging ideas. We wanted to bring students whom we thought would get along well with other students, and who would have an interest in helping our students here at Rectory grow in their understanding of different cultures and ethnicities.

DiRectory: What exactly was the Conference about, and what did you gain from going?

Ms. Morano: The conference was about student leaders and diversity. The attendees were students and teachers from all the private schools in Connecticut. I was hoping that attending the conference would help us be more aware of what other schools are doing to educate their student bodies about diversity and to broaden their school’s outlook on diversity. I was hoping our students would bring back some of the ideas and inspiration they learned from other schools at the conference and share them with the student body here at Rectory.

DiRectory: Why do you think this conference was an important event for students to attend?

Ms. Morano: Because I think that the world is a shrinking place, and our school is a microcosm of the world. And in order for us to be better prepared for the world that we’re growing into, it’s important for us to be aware of issues and address them and help each other become more broad in our perspective.

DiRectory: Do you think all ages can learn from this experience? Why do you think they made it a “Student Diversity Conference” instead of an all-around conference for teachers and other adults?

Ms. Morano: I think they wanted it to be student-centered, so that they could break the students into different age groups. The teachers were exposed to a different sort of information session at that time. We watched a video about a judge who was very active during the time of Martin Luther King. What they wanted the students to do was to break up into smaller groups and have each group explore different issues that were age-appropriate, so that they could share what they discussed and learned with their peers when they went back to their own schools.

DiRectory: I know at the S.D.L.C. they talked about how students can make a big impact on society. Do you believe that students can make a difference?

Ms. Morano: Of course students make a difference; the students of today are going to be the leaders of tomorrow. The more that they can learn about each other and about issues that are presented to them, the better they can use their growing awareness and education to make necessary changes in society.

DiRectory: Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Rectory community about this S.D.L.C. conference?

Ms. Morano: Yes, I would like to comment on the wonderful job that Rectory student Ransford N. did presenting at the conference. After the student breakout sessions, one member from each group was asked to speak to the entire audience about what his/her group had discussed and what they took away from it. Ransford spoke very eloquently in front of everyone at the conference. I think he has great leadership potential!

Mr. Ducksworth’s Interview:

DiRectory: Why do you think this conference was an important event for students to attend?

Mr. Ducksworth: Working at Rectory for four years, it’s very evident that we live in a diverse community. So it’s important for all students here to understand the world, to understand other cultures, and to be exposed to other cultures. I’m a big proponent of diversity; students should have respect for diversity and want to be in a diverse environment. I think we all thrive in a diverse environment; we can learn so much from each other. So it’s really important for students to get a taste for diversity. From the conference perspective, it gave students a chance to think about themselves in ways that they haven’t done yet. I think it’s a really good stepping-stone for students, even those as young as the students here at Rectory.

DiRectory: Do you think all ages can learn from this experience? Why do you think they made it a “Student Diversity Conference” instead of an all-around conference for teachers and other adults?

Mr. Ducksworth: I think there’s learning to be done pretty much as soon as one student starts talking to another student. From that point on I think there’s so much learning to be done by talking to someone from a different culture. So, in my opinion, there is no age that’s too young for someone to start learning about other people and other people’s experiences. I think it’s important for students of all ages to get to know people from other diversity groups, such as the different groups that we have here at Rectory.

DiRectory: I know at the S.D.L.C. they talked about how students can make a big impact on society. Do you believe that students can make a difference?

Mr. Ducksworth: I definitely think that’s true. At the conference, we learned about the March on Washington. If you study the history of the American Civil Rights Movement, you’ll learn that a large part of that movement consisted of students, basically freshmen and up, which means students the age of Rectory’s ninth graders. There were students out on the front lines doing things that their parents weren’t able to do; things that I, as an African American male, am super grateful for. Some kids really put everything on the line – went to jail – fought for their rights – staged sit-ins and bus boycotts – things that I think would be terrifying, when I think of how I would have felt doing them at 14 or 15 years old. These kids went out and did it; I feel like, to a certain extent, they did it for me and other people of future generations.

And kids most definitely can make a big impact. I just read a book called “I Am Malala, The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot By the Taliban,” about a girl named Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan. You might have heard about her; unfortunately, she was shot by the Taliban just for wanting to go to school. And now, after her recovery, she’s standing up for the rights of young women to attend school. She started working on that at 15; now she’s 16, and she’s made a huge difference already. So, there’s no way that kids don’t make a huge difference, and I think kids shouldn’t let anyone tell them that they can’t make a big difference.

Student, Thayne H. Interview:     

DiRectory: What did you learn at the conference, and did you like it?

Thayne: I learned that everyone is different and lives in different ways. We did an exercise where we all stood in a circle; then questions were read, such as, “Are you Native American?” or “Are you African American?” If you answered “yes” to the question, you had to walk to the middle of the circle. In this way, we could immediately see how diverse the community was. We also learned that there are injustices based on what you look like or what you feel.

DiRectory: What can you do as a student to promote diversity in your community?

Thayne: I think that a lot of the time I try hard to put good effort into my homework and school work, and I try to just do what I can. So if everyone would just try…. And so I like to tell people that even if you don’t know how to do something, just try to get as far as you can with it. It was definitely fun to see all different types of people from all different places and see how different everyone really is. I think it was definitely a good event to go to; it makes me a little more aware of all the different people in our world.

Student, Ransford N. Interview:

DiRectory: What exactly was the Conference about, and what did you gain from going?

Ransford: The conference was about different groups of people from different places coming together and getting to know each other and realizing how special being diverse can be.

DiRectory: What did you learn at the conference, and did you like it?

Ransford: I learned a lot; I learned about different places. I learned that not everybody thinks the same about where you’re from and the school you attend, so that was good to learn. It helped me remember to keep an open mind because we don’t know a lot about everyone else.

Yes, I liked the conference, especially since I thought what they taught me would be good to bring back to other students at Rectory; that not everybody’s the same, that everyone is different, and the sooner we can accept that, the sooner we can all come together and be a better community.

Student, Isaac T. Interview:

DiRectory: What did you learn at the conference, and did you like it?

Isaac: We watched a video about other countries; it said that in some African countries, one person dies every three seconds. This made me realize how beautiful my life is. These people don’t have the opportunities that I have—to work hard and try new things. But we do have these opportunities, and we need to enjoy every second and every day of our life and work hard.

I really enjoyed the conference because I learned a lot. We talked about the poor people in other countries. I made a lot of new friends while doing the activities at the conference.

DiRectory: What qualities do you believe make you a good student leader?

Isaac: I have a good relationship with my classmates; I try to help them to finish their work, if they need my help. Also, when they have a problem, I try to help them resolve it.

DiRectory: At the conference, they talked about how students can make a change and greatly impact society. Do you believe you can make a change?

Isaac: Yes, I do think I can make a change and impact society. A person can make a change in himself pretty easily, but to change the ideas of the people in our society is very difficult. Everyone wants to be positive and happy every day, so we can use our own actions as an example for other people to be good people and to work hard.

Student, Lucy C. Interview:

DiRectory: What did you learn at this conference and did you enjoy it?

Lucy: I learned that many immigrants come to America and there are a lot of problems about the color of your skin. People are mean to others because of their skin, but I, personally, don’t think it’s a big problem. I think that if you don’t look very beautiful, but you are very nice to people, other people will like you. And if you do look very beautiful, but you’re mean and you always bully others, I don’t think others will like you. So I think it doesn’t depend on the color of your skin. It depends on your character; you just need to be nice and honest to other people, that’s all. I really enjoyed this conference.

DiRectory: What qualities do you believe make a good student leader?

Lucy: I think that students should be responsible, and you should take on responsibility. Also, you should be honest and be respectful, and you should help other students. You should be enthusiastic, and when other people need help, don’t be afraid to help them. And you should be brave and speak up for other people. Those are the qualities I believe you need to have to be a good student leader.

DiRectory: At the Conference they spoke about how students can make a change and impact society greatly. Do you believe you can make a change? And, if so, how?

Lucy: I do think that students can make a change. But I think students cannot depend just on themselves; they need more help and they should gather more people for support. They can make advertisements, or iMovies, or something like that to show society what they can do to make a difference.

DiRectory: Is there anything else you would like to share with the Rectory community?

Lucy: Yes. I would like to tell all students to be nice to each other and respect all other students, whatever country they come from. If you’re respectful to others, you will also receive that same respect.

What’s Next?

From these interviews with the teachers and students who attended this diversity conference, it seems that they gained much knowledge and awareness about what diversity means and why it is important for us to embrace diversity in our own community.

Looking ahead to next year, the Rectory Diversity Committee has discussed the possibility of establishing a “Diversity Club for Students,” so that our students can talk about what diversity means to them and further explore the deeper significance of diversity, equity, and inclusion, as they relate to the Rectory community. Suggested activities for students include viewing video clips, engaging in planned activities that would expose students to a variety of diversity issues, journaling, and having debates. The purpose of this student diversity club would be to bring awareness to these students and to develop a student-based leadership group in the school to serve as role models for other students. However, for this group to be successful, the supervising adults/teachers would already need to have this awareness themselves, to be able to guide the students. This means that these supervisors would have to be carefully chosen and/or would need some prior training or professional development.

Establishing a “Diversity Club for Students” would be an exciting endeavor for teachers and students at Rectory, but one which should be carefully considered and well planned out. We believe the success of such a student diversity club would benefit all members of the Rectory community.










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