The student-run newspaper of Westridge School for Girls, Spyglass strives to build community and evoke empathy through the medium of journalism. Comprised of passionate student writers, editors, designers, managers, and leaders, Spyglass is dedicated to ethical reporting that amplifies our unique voices to inform, entertain, and forge connection in the Westridge community and beyond.

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The student-run newspaper of Westridge School for Girls, Spyglass strives to build community and evoke empathy through the medium of journalism. Comprised of passionate student writers, editors, designers, managers, and leaders, Spyglass is dedicated to ethical reporting that amplifies our unique voices to inform, entertain, and forge connection in the Westridge community and beyond.

Spyglass

The student-run newspaper of Westridge School for Girls, Spyglass strives to build community and evoke empathy through the medium of journalism. Comprised of passionate student writers, editors, designers, managers, and leaders, Spyglass is dedicated to ethical reporting that amplifies our unique voices to inform, entertain, and forge connection in the Westridge community and beyond.

Spyglass

“It was probably the best experience of my sophomore year:” Six Westridge Students Attend the 2023 Student Diversity Leadership Conference

The+six+students+who+attended+SDLC+from+left+to+right+Saba+K.+25%2C+Emmabella+B.+M.+25%2C+Micaela+R.+26%2C+Isabel+d.+L.+26%2C+Kanon+I.+26%2C+Shania+W.+27.+%28Ian+Tatum%29
The six students who attended SDLC from left to right Saba K. ’25, Emmabella B. M. ’25, Micaela R. ’26, Isabel d. L. ’26, Kanon I. ’26, Shania W. ’27. (Ian Tatum)

From November 29 to December 2, six Westridge students traveled to St. Louis, Missouri to attend the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC). SDLC is a nationwide conference where hundreds of high school students gather and speak about further ways to promote diversity at independent schools. Along with the six students, Director of Equity Mr. Ian Tatum, Theatre Teacher and next year’s Student Voices Dean Ms. Julia Davis, Registrar Mr. Jackson Finnerman, Campus Safety Officer Marcus Randolph, and Advancement Office Associate Ms. Shivani Patel flew to St. Louis to attend and chaperone the trip.

It kicked off with an early morning at LAX. After arriving at St. Louis, checking into the Fairfield Inn, and eating a delicious lunch at Killer Pizza, the group listened to a special keynote speaker Simon Tam. He was a former member of the Slants, a band whose songs empowered Asian Americans, and spoke about his experience living as an Asian American in the United States. After the keynote speaker, students headed back to the Fairfield Inn to get ready for bed and await the next day of the conference, which started bright and early at 8:15 a.m. 

During their stay in St. Louis, not only did the six students learn about how they could promote diversity at Westridge, but they also found a community at the conference. “I loved seeing the connections our students made with other students at the conference. Each of them expressed how exciting it was to find a sense of community and the fact they could relate to a group of people with shared identities,” Ms. Davis said.

Shania W. ’27 with new friends she made at the conference. (Shania W.)

“This conference really gave me hope for the future because there were so many people self-educating themselves, learning from others, and wanting to change the world,” Isabel d. L. ’26 said. 

On the morning of Thursday, November 30, students attended many meetings and ceremonies. Micaela R. ’26 reflected about the benefits of being surrounded by large groups of students: “I made hundreds of friends, and I found so many communities there that I hadn’t found at [Westridge]. I didn’t realize there were so many people out there who felt how I felt.”

The entire Asian American Pacific Islander affinity. (Kanon I.)

“I learned that seeing yourself [represented] is really meaningful and being around other people who are like you is so valuable and empowering,” Saba K. ’25 said.

To conclude their Thursday, students had dinner and met in their affinity groups at the conference. “I had so much fun and I really connected with many people all across America who were Japanese, especially at Westridge there are not many Japanese people. Those meetings and small interactions really made me feel like I belonged,” Kanon I. ’26, who attended the Japanese Affinity, said. 

The SWANA affinity at SDLC. (Saba K.)

Students had a similar schedule on Friday, December 1, the day before students flew back. There was an opening ceremony with University of Illinois Chicago Professor Dr. Gholdy Muhammad, who spoke about the flaws in independent schools’ curriculum. Another keynote speaker who spoke at the conference was Dr. Omékongo Dibanga, who is committed to advocating against bias and stereotypes. Dr. Dibanga expressed his speech through rap. “[Dr. Dibinga] said something that truly resonated with me… [that] we deserve to be where we are in life because we worked for it, and if someone tells us otherwise, they are wrong because we make the effort everyday to better ourselves and to learn about our world,” Emmabella B. M. ’25 said.

A closing ceremony followed, where Micaela spoke in front of all the SDLC attendees about the lessons she learned from the conference. “The joy I have felt while being here is the fact that I’ve finally had a community where I feel seen, where I feel loved,” Micaela said. She continued, “All these beautiful positive souls that believe in the same things that I believe, which is like fight for justice, fight for love, and just fight for general equality at an independent school.” 

 

Saba also reflected on her experience at SDLC in front of all the attendees. “The most important thing that I have learned here is that we each have our own families… more importantly, we are all a part of the human family. The most important thing to do is just love each other. Please be kind to each other and advocate for each other. When others are hurt, feel hurt,” she said. Following Saba’s speech, the crowd erupted, chanting, “Saba,” “Saba,” “Saba.”

Shania W. with her Taiwanese micro affinity (Shania W.)

One of the most heartwarming moments was watching the students say goodbye to each other towards the end of the conference. Saba and Micaela both spoke in front of everyone, and they were greeted with words of affirmation, support, and love. It was incredible to see our students represent Westridge with their strength, leadership, kindness, and consideration,” Ms. Davis said.

 

Kanon shared that she cried on the bus ride back from the conference. “I wasn’t crying because I was sad, it was because I couldn’t believe I made such amazing friends and that they will all be gone from my life, and I don’t think I’ll ever have an opportunity to meet that many people that shared my experiences and talk about what it feels like to be an Asian American living in America,” she said. Kanon shared that although she will stay in contact with those that she met at the conference online, she will still deeply miss being together in person. 

 

Along with connecting with other students at the conference, students had the opportunity to hear others’ opinions and not only talk about current issues but also brainstorm actions that they are going to take to combat diversity issues within Westridge. 

 

Shania W. ’27 shared, “I was really fortunate and appreciative that I got to go on this trip because of what I learned and how I can apply it to Westridge.”

 

Correction (6:08 p.m. Dec. 11):

 – A previous version of this article failed to state that Julia Davis is next year’s Student Voices Dean in addition to being a theatre teacher. It additionally incorrectly listed Shivani Patel as next year’s Student Voices Dean rather than an associate.

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About the Contributor
Rebecca L., Staff Writer
Rebecca is a freshman in her third year of writing for Spyglass. Other than school work and volleyball taking up most of her time, you’ll find her constantly in cafes eating crepes and drinking iced chai lattes or amusement parks, especially during Halloween Horror Nights season.
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