Middle and Upper School students from more than 35 local schools attended The Haverford School’s 12th annual Middle School Diversity Conference on March 4. The conference’s theme was “The Power of Sharing Our Stories.”
Internationally-recognized poet, novelist, and professor Dr. Javier Àvila was the keynote speaker at the event. Dr. Àvila presented part of his nationwide tour entitled “The Trouble with My Name.” Dr. Àvila was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and moved to the United States in his 30s. Using stories about his time in both countries, he spoke about needing to prove to others “you are not the stereotype,” and recognizing the importance of being an ally.
“We are building a cathedral of equity,” Àvila told the audience. “I say cathedral because those types of buildings are started by generations who may not see the finished product.”
Our two speakers this year modeled vulnerability for all of us, with humor, grace, and a profound sense of self. The Upper School students who led breakout discussions also served as role models and mentors for the younger attendees. These moments of connection offer hope and light when times get hard.Brendon Jobs, Director of Diversity and Inclusion
Àvila also read poems written about his father, a U.S. Army veteran who fought in the Korean War, his grandmother, a Puerto Rican nationalist who lived to be 102, and his biracial son.
“As Americans, we come from all walks of life. The story of how my son became this mix of cultures is really the story of all of us here,” he said.
Greg Corbin, a Philadelphia-based poet and activist who works for Mural Arts, spoke to students in the afternoon about “building radical imagination through storytelling.” He read two poems and shared tips on building emotional intelligence, practicing mindfulness, and being aware of stereotypes.
“Don’t let anyone take away your shine,” he told students. “Tell your own story and what you are creating for yourself. We are the answers we’ve been searching for.”
“Our two speakers this year modeled vulnerability for all of us, with humor, grace, and a profound sense of self,” said Brendon Jobs, Director of Diversity and Inclusion. “The Upper School students who led breakout discussions also served as role models and mentors for the younger attendees. These moments of connection offer hope and light when times get hard.”
The event, which is the largest of its kind in the region, seeks to foster understanding and inclusion among middle school students. More than 70 Upper School students from area schools served as facilitators and led younger students in breakout discussions and activities. Educators attended a professional development workshop led by Dr. Àvila on anti-racist practices.