Students plan, organize diversity conference May 15

One of the flyers for the BRAVE conference, a student-run diversity discussion.

One of the flyers for the BRAVE conference, a student-run diversity discussion.

Grace Zhang, Arts Editor

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Delving into topics about culture, ethnicity and race, students from Lab’s lower, middle and high schools will gather at the BRAVE conference in Gordon Parks Arts Hall May 15.

BRAVE, which stands for Becoming Racially Aware and Valuing Ethnicity, will be a whole day organized and led by students. Around 40 U-High students will attend, along with as many as 40 middle students and three lower school homeroom classes.

English teacher Hasham Bhatti attended the National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference in November 2018, and approached Destiney Williamson, a sophomore who attended the corresponding Student Diversity Leadership Conference, about bringing their experiences from the conferences back to Lab, creating a group of students and a conference centered on diversity.

“The students who participated in SDLC led a workshop for faculty from the school, and many of us were brought to, like, tears of joy,” Mr. Bhatti said. “It was just exciting to see engage in amazing to see the students take that leadership role and really thoughtful well planned, executed ways to lead us and group of adults through a workshop on on identity and diversity.”

That group of students, now the student planning committee leading and planning the event, consists of U-High students Noor Asad, Kennedy Coats, Zachary Gin, Veronica Godina, Upasana Larson and Destiney. It’s supported by Mr. Bhatti; Teddy Stripling, a counselor; Priyanka Rupani, director of diversity, equity and inclusion; and Ana Campos, dean of students.

According to Mr. Bhatti and Destiney, DEI peer facilitators and the committee will host workshops and lead discussions tailored toward age groups and focusing on topics and themes such as privilege and the unique cultures of different communities.

“Our main purpose is to kind of help educate, in a way, the Lab community about diversity race and ethnicity issues,” Destiney said. “Because we do have a minority community and that we want to help educate on people who are not in minorities about our issues and things that are important to us.”

Although some students from Hinsdale Central will be part of the opening ceremony of the event, the conference is centered on looking at diversity at and across the Lab schools.

“This conference really is to take a pause and have us look inward,” Ms. Rupani said. “So if we’re really spending the time to think about how does this impact how we, as a community, think about race and ethnicity, then focusing it on our community makes the most sense.”

The day will also consist of performances, spoken word, guest speakers, and a lunch specially curated to fit the program.

Registration opened April 22 for all students while space is available.