The Social Justice Leadership Summit is one of my favorite days of the year because it is all about community building. I love hearing students talk about their experiences and brainstorm ideas to make St. Luke's an inclusive community.
At the Summit, we use the Heart-Heads-Hands model of leadership. Leadership is about knowledge and awareness, opening the heart for compassion and empathy, and using talents and skills in the service of others.
In our 5th year, a special guest co-lead the Summit with me. Michael Francis Vidal is the Director of Youth Education at the National Conference for Community and Justice. He has a master's degree in Social Justice from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has worked with young people at high schools and colleges all across New England, and also happens to be a dear friend. Students and faculty got to know Michael as he presented on the origins of our ideas about social identities. He led us through a series of activities and discussions designed to help us recognize the many factors shaping our thinking.
The 50 students and faculty who attended the Summit practiced perception sharing, listening closely, and speaking our truths. As always, we had a lot of laughs and even some dancing (here is some footage of "The Wobble"—the official dance of the 2017 Summit).
Near the end of the Summit, we asked students to describe their ideal St. Luke's experience. They came up with a list of ideas including: anxiety-reducing classroom strategies, a challenge to only compliment people on non-physical characteristics, and a Summit-type day for the whole school.
The Tuesday after the Summit, Student Diversity Leadership Council (SDLC) members led an Upper School faculty workshop to share their perspective, as students, of classroom inclusiveness and school culture. Faculty were thoroughly impressed by the SDLC and many reached out to say that they would try some of the ideas that came out of the Summit. The Social Justice Leadership Summit is leadership in action.
I offer a special thanks to the whole Summit Faculty team. Michael Mitchell, Evan Downey, John Higgins, and Nancy Troeger helped in the planning for the day and Kate Parker-Burgard, Beth Yavenditti, Jason Haynes, Jeff Kress, Leo Mahler, Carrie Meatto, Tom Owen, and Noel Thomas helped with planning and were at the Summit the whole day to facilitate core groups. I also offer a shout out to our SDLC students who inspire me as an educator every single day. Amelia Wyckoff '18, Kate Stamoulis '18, Jesse Segalla '18, Madison Sead '19, Shamond Moore '19, Dylan Johnson '20, and Tasia Courts '20—these young people already are changing the world.
St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non-religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.
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