Uncomfortable Conversations

Students who attend the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) spend a weekend engaged in dialogue that challenges their morals and beliefs.

by Ayushi Kokroo ’15

In a room filled with African American students, there was a single different face. The room was silent and the girl repeatedly received disapproving glances and whispers from the people around her. Contrary to what many in the group believed, the girl was not an outsider. In fact, she was one of them. Her Asian appearance caused confusion, but once she uttered her first words, she left everyone in the room speechless. With her heavy Jamaican accent, she called out each and every person in the group who had judged her for being different, and they realized their mistake.

This is only one of many realizations people make during SDLC, the Student Diversity Leadership Conference, where young people across the nation come together and think about diversity through different lenses.


George School students Miranda Riccardi-Coon ’15, Paolio Aligheri ’13, Fatima Akbar ’14, Arne Nelson ’13, Maia Valdepenas-Mellor ’15, and Qudsiyyah Collings ’15 at SDLC 2012.

This three-day conference takes place once a year and thousands of students of all ages are able to meet, discuss, and share their viewpoints and experiences on diversity issues with others similar to them as well as those who are very different. Students are first divided into different groups of around fifty people and then broken down into smaller groups, called family groups, of five to ten people.

Qudsiyyah Collings ’15, who attended the conference last year said, “I definitely connected the most with my family group. I felt safe and I could talk about anything with them.” Most of the activities students partake in are conversation based, and they categorize discussions based on a wide range of topics that include race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status. While at the conference students have to live by guidelines, but especially when difficult discussions arose, which included being respectful to others and being willing to share experiences.

“Because we’re having discussions about diversity, which can be uncomfortable, we have to be respectful but we also have to lean into the discomfort to be able to really have the discussions and also help group mates understand our situations,” Qudsiyyah said. The conference affects people personally based on the people they meet, the activities and discussions, or just from the experience as a whole. Last year a boy spoke about how he hated when people assumed he was rich just because he had a big house, and this caused Qudsiyyah to think about her judgments. “This was one of the uncomfortable experiences I had. I thought about how my mom raised me and how she judges people whom she considers wealthy, so that made me think a lot about how my mom has affected my views.”

In only three days students are able to learn a lot about other individuals across the country, but most importantly, they are able to learn more about themselves. This conference enables students to realize the judgments they make rather than ignore and continue them in the future. “I feel like everybody should go to SDLC,” Qudsiyyah said, “It was such a great experience and everyone should get the opportunity to reflect on important parts of their lives.”

Once a year students are given the opportunity to go on a trip that widens their understanding of diversity and what it means to different people. Although it is only a three day conference, the experiences and learning from those three days are enough to last much longer.

This post originally appeared in The Curious George, the George School student newspaper. Select articles from The Curious George will appear here. To learn more about The Curious George, visit our website

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