At Assembly on March 9, students who represented Nobles at the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) in December shared their takeaways from the summit. This year’s reps included Helena Jensen ’17, William Wang ’16, Maya Cortez ’16, Gabriela Ureña ’16, Mariam-Alexis Camara ’17 and Miguel Principe ’16.
The SDLC is held annually in conjunction with the People of Color Conference; in 2014, more than 1,600 students from around the country participated. The goal of the conference is “to help participants appreciate each other’s identities and their own, improve cross-cultural communication, develop effective strategies for social justice, and practice expression through the arts through peer networking.”*
Helena Jensen spoke about the disparaging effects of unrealistic standards of “beauty” and doctored media images on self-perception, and hopes awareness can bring a shift toward more highly valuing the non-physical attributes individuals have to share.
William Wang spoke from personal experience about the variety of family structures that exist (his father lives and works in Hawaii).
Gabriela Ureña addressed the problems inherent within our usage of the English language, which, although it doesn’t include male and female articles, compels us to associate certain words with certain genders. By virtue of saying, “I am a strong, independent woman,” she says, one implies that women are speaking defensively and shouldn’t have to.
Mariama-Alexis Camara came to Nobles from a Christian school, and admits the transition to a secular environment was an adjustment. While she recognizes the freedom students have to be themselves, the fact that religion is not interwoven in the everyday inspired her to remind people to be sensitive to and appreciative of different perspectives.
Maya Cortez, although poised and confident on the Assembly stage, recalls being a shy, anxious youngster. She pointed out, we are incapable of knowing what obstacles and struggles others are facing. Something as simple to one person as getting out of bed in the morning may seem insurmountable to someone else. Compassion matters.
Although each student addressed a different facet of identity, the unified message was one of appreciation, advocacy and empathy.