On November 6, Nobles invited groups from across the Independent School League (ISL) for the second annual Changemakers Conference, the ISL Athletics Leadership Symposium on Equity and Racial Justice. Milton Academy hosted the inaugural event last fall to encourage an inclusive culture across the ISL. The conference brings together ISL athletics and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB). Each ISL school that attended was represented by promising student leaders involved in athletics, together with athletic directors and DEIB practitioners.
During her inspiring keynote address, Katie Benzan ’16 shared her determined, record-breaking athletic journey as a multiracial, 5’6” basketball player at Nobles, Harvard and the University of Maryland—and now, working with the Utah Jazz on roster construction. When asked to indicate her ethnicity by checking a box, “I didn’t fit into one box. So I created a new one.” Reclaiming the meaning and value of “other” was her first act of rebellion, but hasn’t been her last. She closed, “History has shown us that when people come together, celebrating and appreciating our differences, anything can be done…No matter what box anyone tries to put you in, you all have the power to break down barriers and build your own place in this world.”
Following Benzan’s talk, workshops ranged from equitable leadership to communication and shared language, to building an inclusive culture on teams and in locker rooms. Participants met with various affinity groups, with the option of joining a white-identifying learning space led by trained facilitators.
Nobles’ Chief Equity Officer Edgar De Leon ’04 said, “Our hope is that the attendees were inspired by the work they engaged in during the conference. Furthermore, we hope students will leverage the skills they acquired in the workshops to improve their leadership skills, ultimately enriching the experience for their teammates and enhancing the spirit of positive competition across the ISL.”
The conference closed with student representatives from each school sharing reflections. Closing speaker and cross-country runner Noah Douglas ’25 said, “The things you’ve learned here can and should inspire you to be a leader on your team, whether that’s running for captain or just trying to be a positive influence. If every person here today can do that, then the ISL as a whole will be so much better off. Not only will you have a better experience during your time on a team, but so will the students who come after you, and they will be inspired to lead just as you did … Our teams may not be capable of changing by themselves, but I have no doubt that every one of you can create a legacy for generations to come.”