Oak Knoll Community Participates in 27th Annual NAIS People of Color and Student Diversity Leadership Conferences
Nine members of the Oak Knoll School community recently took part in the 2020 National Association of Independent Schools’s People of Color Conference – the flagship of the NAIS commitment to equity and justice in teaching, learning and organizational development.
The mission of the virtual, four-day PoCC conference, from November 30 to December 4, 2020, was to provide a safe space for leadership, professional development, and networking for people of color and allies of all backgrounds in independent schools.
“This conference is a place to establish community,” said Jennifer Wilson, Oak Knoll’s Associate Director of College Counseling and (D)iversity, (E)quity, (I)nclusion and (J)ustice Coordinator. “It is about being with people who have shared identities and experiences and about seeing your own identity reflected in other people. As a person who identifies as white, this is something I experience every day at a predominantly white institution (PWI). I feel privileged to have been in this space where I was able to listen and learn. For me, this conference gave me energy and tools to keep focused and moving forward with DEIJ work within our school community.”
Shavonda Robinson, Upper School Registrar and former Oak Knoll Diversity Coordinator, has been an attendee at the PoCC for the past 10 years.
She said although this year’s conference was virtual, the energy from the speakers and participants was palpable.
“The plethora of resources shared at this year’s conference will help guide me in planning productive meetings and creating engaging activities for the newly formed Black/African Heritage affinity group on campus that I moderate,” said Robinson. “I am excited to lead this new OKS group and to establish authentic connections with our Black students in the Upper School.”
Robinson said she looks forward to hearing the ideas of her colleagues who attended the conference and their DEIJ plans and ideas to implement change.
Held concurrent to the PoCC, Oak Knoll students also had an opportunity to attend the NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference – a multiracial, multicultural gathering of Upper School student leaders (grades 9-12) from across the U.S. and abroad.
Oak Knoll junior Aria Alva ’22 said that one of the SDLC speakers truly resonated with her.
“Rodney, one of the speakers, shared a very moving personal experience when he said that, ‘white supremacists only wanted our silence or our anger,’” explained Alva. “This statement was something that I carried during the conference as I spent a lot of my younger years both angry and silent. His words helped me reflect on how I communicate with those who don’t see the oppression of people of color and learn how to become a better ally to both my own community and other minority groups. The SDLC conference also made me realize that acceptance is something that can only be given fully or not at all.”
Oak Knoll is committed to the ongoing review of curricular and extracurricular offerings to educate students on the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice and to be allies and changemakers in the school’s ongoing quest for racial and social justice. Oak Knoll is currently undergoing this review to ensure every member of its community sees themselves reflected in their classrooms and extracurricular programming.
“DEIJ work is ongoing and deserves the time, effort, and commitment to transform our faculty and students into change agents for a just community and world,” said Robinson.