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July 1, 2024

Reflections on the April AISNE Students of Color High School Conference.


On April 6, a group of 10 St. Paul’s School students traveled to The Wheeler School in Providence, Rhode Island, for the Association of Independent Schools in New England (AISNE) Students of Color High School Conference. Representing a variety of SPS affinity groups, the student attendees — Alana Kaye Morgan ’25, Allyson Duardo ’26, Asher Gupta ’26, Christopher Chabla ’26, Jermaine Baffour ’24, Leela Umashakar ’27, Monika Principal ’26, Naya Saxena ’26, Raen Kao ’24 and Yeneisy Morocho ’25 — were selected for the opportunity after demonstrating excellent work as leaders on campus.

The conference started with a keynote address by Andre Bradford, an award-winning slam poet and author. Bradford, who has shared his unique and engaging method of slam poetry storytelling with thousands of people at institutions nationwide, describes his mission as one “…to create more empathetic communities and cultures using poetry, data and story.” I found his style of delivery to be enthralling; Bradford was uniquely dynamic and added ‘punches’ of energy to his poetry that made his messages about relationships [and] media stereotypes all the more powerful.

In the afternoon, students broke out into groups for workshops, selecting two sessions from more than 25 options led by students and teachers, who facilitated activities and discourse on issues students of color face on a day-to-day basis. In “Floating in A Most Peculiar Way: A Workshop on Belonging,” we heard from a teacher who had emigrated to the United States from Cuba, and about how she began to find belonging in a small Providence church even as she continued to worry about whether the U.S. government would deport her parents. The workshop discussions prompted us to learn about the human side of struggles and rethink many stereotypes we may have held, moving the needle beyond the superficial media knowledge we had previously.

Workshop session during AISNE Conference

As the conference came to a close, U.S. Rep Gabe Amo, the first person of color to represent Rhode Island in Congress, spoke to the more than 200 students in attendance. He explained that he not only represents his state but also serves as the voice of Rhode Island’s minorities in advocating for issues that were never on the discussion table before.

Just before departing The Wheeler School, students met in affinity groups to speak about their culture and experiences. For me, being in a room with other South Asian kids from schools across New England was wonderful, eye opening and an experience I won’t forget. As one of the Heads of South Asian Society next year, I had the opportunity to learn about activities that South Asian affinity groups at other schools engaged in that we can incorporate at SPS.

The AISNE Students of Color Conference was a meaningful opportunity to engage in very relevant discourse on identity, particularly during the workshop sessions. It can be a challenging experience to be a minority in a predominantly white institution, but it’s also very possible to find comfort and belonging in that kind of space. A lot of times that comfort comes from meeting people like you, but it also can come from stepping out of your zone and having important discussions with others. I not only met students from other schools that I could relate to, I also got to know some others at SPS I hadn’t known previously. I’d definitely attend this conference again, and would encourage other St. Paul’s students to, as well.