Fifteen members of the St. Margaret’s community attended the National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference and the adjacent NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference in Nashville, Tenn., last week. In addition to the Tartan delegation participating in workshops and attending speaker events over four days, two St. Margaret’s faculty members—Director of Equity and Inclusion Victor Cota and Breakthrough SJC Director Alex Serna—shared their expertise during a presentation to independent-school leaders from around the country at the event.
The trip was part of St. Margaret’s ongoing strategic work around fostering an inclusive school community and developing cultural competency skills in students to effectively engage across cultures, perspectives and backgrounds.
NAIS People of Color Conference
Nine members of St. Margaret’s faculty and staff attended the People of Color Conference, including Head of School Will Moseley, Assistant Head of School for Strategic Initiatives Ryan Dahlem, Mr. Cota, faculty from divisions ranging from Preschool to Upper School, and staff members from the communications and advancement offices.
“Developing cultural competency skills and fostering an inclusive school community at St. Margaret’s are among our most important initiatives, and our large delegation at the NAIS People of Color Conference reflects our commitment to these goals,” Mr. Dahlem said. “This professional development experience was a powerful opportunity for faculty and staff to connect with colleagues from across the country while gaining new insights, perspectives and education to support this crucial work on campus.”
The faculty and staff attended a wide variety of presentations, including ones dedicated to strategic approaches to diversity, equity and inclusion; a presentation examining inclusive hiring practices in independent schools; and tips for culturally responsive teaching practices.
In addition, Mr. Cota and Mr. Serna led a presentation on guiding Latinx, first-generation, low-income students at independent schools to college. They touched on topics such as financial aid opportunities, college counseling tips and targeted, culturally relevant support, and explained how to implement best practices into independent schools.
NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference
Meanwhile, six St. Margaret’s Upper School students—seniors Maggie Perez and Sam Cruz, juniors Shea Hueston and Angela Mendoza Ortega, and sophomores Jackson Adelman and Joshua Kim—were among 1,600 students nationwide at the NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference, a multiracial, multicultural gathering of students leaders from around the country.
The SDLC focuses on self-reflecting, forming allies, and building community and leadership skills. The St. Margaret’s students, who are all members of the Upper School’s Tartan Inclusivity and Diversity Education (TIDE) student leadership group, attended a variety of workshops and events and joined affinity groups that they identified with.
Angela Mendoza Ortega said she joined the Latinx affinity group to share perspectives and takeaways with peers from the same cultural background.
“It was comforting and familiar to learn about other students,” Angela said. “We all have different experiences coming from different places, but to find similar aspects was very interesting.”