Students in every grade shared how they are "Brave Enough to Be Me" during the Hope Conference on April 20. This year’s theme was inspired by Amanda Gorman’s inauguration poem “The Hill We Climb.” What started in 2015 as a day for Upper School students has now been expanded to include all divisions with age-appropriate programming focused on connection, identity, visibility and resilience.
Keynote speaker Rodney Glasgow, Ed.D., captured the attention of Middle and Upper Schoolers with his vulnerability, sharing his story about being a gay black student at an independent school. He discussed how he finds joy amid obstacles and catastrophic moments—how he is brave enough to be himself. “In the midst of everything that’s going on,” shared Dr. Glasgow, “find your transformative joy. Because when you have transformative joy, all those things that come at you get churned around like butter and spit out into a superpower.”
Dr. Glasgow serves as head of school at Sandy Spring Friends School and is one of the founders and leaders of the annual National Association of Independent School’s Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) for the past 25 years. The Hope Conference is modeled after SDLC.
The student-centered day of education created inspiration to embrace diversity and equity with dignity.
Learn more about the division-specific programming below.
Student leaders from the SDLC Flex designed a day filled with affinity groups, Torrey family groups and panel discussions on topics proposed and led by students.
Affinity group options included core aspects to students’ identities like sexual orientation, gender, socio-economics, ability, family structure, religion, and race and ethnicity. The opportunity allowed students to speak from the “I” perspective.
In Torrey family groups, students reflected on Dr. Glasgow’s talk and discussed the conference theme “Brave Enough to Be Me.”
Panel discussions ranged from mental health, remembering the Holocaust, women of color in leadership, pandemic puppies, alumni sharing stories of equity and justice work beyond graduation, political inclusion of conservatives, LGBT+ representation around the world, life as a twin, benefits of gardening and more.
“I am proud to be part of a community that dedicates time and resources to a student-designed experience that helps our leaders of tomorrow learn how to become agents of change so that we might all look toward a better future,” shares Head of Upper School Tom Trocano.
On the morning of March 24, a special Upper School Hope Conference took place that included affinity groups, circle discussions, documentary screening and art-making. Students also held a tribute to Jok Jok ’20 who recently passed away and who had been devoted to planning the yearly Hope Conference. An art walk in the VASC quad included Jok’s work and artist statement. Students wrote notes to Jok and shared treasured memories.
Student leaders from the No Place for Hate Committee organized several components of the day. Middle Schoolers contributed to a community art piece, engaged in workshops geared towards inclusivity and multiculturalism, and watched and discussed the documentary “A Place in the Middle,” the true story of a young girl in Hawaiʻi who dreams of leading the boys-only hula group at her school and the teacher who empowers her through traditional culture.
Students reflected on their own identities and their personal responsibility in being upstanders creating transformative change.
“The Hope Conference for me is a time to think about what is important as a community,” shares Middle School Dean of Equity, Inclusion & Community Engagement Indigo Dow. “With the constant trauma in our world, this day serves as a time to reflect, process and heal. This day gives us an opportunity to figure out how we want to be and how to do better so that every member of this community can feel accepted and welcomed for who they are. This solidarity is imperative in order to create individual, cultural and institutional change.”
The book I am Enough by Grace Byers was the foundation for the Tiny Torreys and junior kindergartners’ connection with the Hope Conference as they continue their exploration of identity. Students documented their experience in a collaborative art piece reflecting upon how they are students who shine.
In an assembly, kindergarten through Grade 4 responded to the "Brave Enough to Be" prompt with courage, empathy and authenticity. They celebrated aspects of their individual identities while also naming ways they could help others in positive ways and make our world a better place.
In addition to students being brave enough to be a gardener, cook, singer, actress, geologist, physicist, play a sport and ride a horse, they also shared:
“I am brave enough to not give up when I make mistakes.”
“I am brave enough to look different than my friends.”
“I am brave enough to make LEGO movies and eat snails.”
“I am brave enough to ask for help.”
“I am brave enough to be a good sister who shares her Chinese food.”
“After reading the wide variety of ways Lower School students responded to the prompt, I am reminded why this work is so important.” shares Head of Lower School Payton Hobbs. “We are all beautifully unique and experience the world differently.”