Calvert School Hosts Baltimore Middle School Conference for Leadership in Diversity
The 3rd annual Baltimore Middle School Conference for Leadership in Diversity was hosted at Calvert School on April 27th with over 200 participants from 14 area schools, both independent and public. This unique conference is tailored to middle school students and is facilitated by area high school students. Calvert School had six Eighth Grade students act as facilitators, and had 18 total participants from Seventh and Eighth Grade. Students had the opportunity to learn from their peers and discuss diversity and inclusion. Teachers also had their own workshop during the conference.
The conference came to life three years ago when a group of teachers from Baltimore-area independent schools had the idea to design a diversity conference tailored to middle school students and facilitated by high school students. This was a unique and creative new concept. The conference provides opportunities to affirm middle school students’ identities, build community across differences, and cultivate student leadership. The conference brings together students and adult diversity advocates to encourage dialogue and foster community-building within, between, and beyond our campuses.
This collaboration started with six participating schools the first year, and in only its third year it has grown to 14 participating schools. Not just that, but the conference has become a collaboration between independent and public schools. This year, Calvert School had the honor to host the unique and innovative Middle School Student Leadership for Diversity Conference. The conference took place from 8:00 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Mr. Jabari Lyles, Executive Director of GLSEN Maryland, was the keynote speaker and his inspiring and candid speech set the tone for the day.
During the conference, high school facilitators engaged middle school students in examining the range of diversity and inclusion, age, ability, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and social socio-economic class. Students engaged in a variety of small and large group activities and discussions to address these topics.
One of the participants shared that they liked “learning about other people’s perspectives and that you have to accept all of them” and that the facilitators “pushed us to come out of our comfort zones and the speakers were inspiring.”
Several students came to some realizations like “I thought some of the Caucasian girls wouldn’t understand/face things that I do, but they did” and “diversity doesn’t have to mean race or ethnic background, it is about way more.” Others expressed their appreciation at attending because it “allowed for deeper and better quality conversations” where “we got to talk about topics that influence our generation.”
“It is an amazing opportunity for my students who otherwise would not have the time or space to explore issues of diversity and leadership” expressed one of the teachers in attendance. While students were in their groups, teachers had the opportunity to have their own diversity workshop lead by Natalie Gillard where they played her game Factuality, a facilitated dialogue, crash course, and board game on structural inequality in America.