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February 12, 2024

Learning opportunities, celebration of diverse perspectives the focus of events in St. Louis and Massachusetts


In early February, a group of nine St. Paul’s School students attended the daylong International Student Conference (ISC) at Governor’s Academy in Byfield, Massachusetts. Earlier in Winter Term, a different group of students and SPS faculty members traveled together to St. Louis to attend the annual National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) People of Color Conference and the Student Diversity Leadership Conference. The two events represent important opportunities for students and faculty members alike to celebrate diverse perspectives, engage in meaningful conversations with peers and colleagues, and refine their own understanding of issues of inclusion and belonging.

An event founded by Governor’s Academy students in 2022, the ISC hosts students from independent schools across New England for a day of conversations and workshops about the cultural, academic, social and emotional challenges and rewards of New England boarding school life for young people not born and raised in the United States. Nine St. Paul’s School Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Formers attended this year’s conference, chaperoned by Science Teacher Erin Ruane.

Julia Koeman ‘25, an international student from New Zealand, was attending the ISC for the second time. She described the conference as an “amazing” opportunity “to find an entire community of students who shared similar experiences to my own.” During this year’s ISC, Koeman attended workshops about healthcare and long-distance family relationships and she looks forward to attending the conference again in 2025.

The two NAIS conferences took place from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2, with six SPS students and nine faculty and staff members participating in four full days of events. While the group of adults attended sessions oriented toward independent school teachers and administrators, student attendees participated in large group sessions with keynote speakers, smaller group discussions with peers from other independent schools … and even a talent show.

International Student Conference at Governor's Academy

SPS students and their New England boarding school peers at the International Student Conference at Governor’s Academy.

Students and faculty at NAIS Students of Color Conference

SPS students and faculty at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) People of Color Conference and the Student Diversity Leadership Conference in St. Louis.

Established by NAIS to bring together student leaders from independent high schools to “develop cross-cultural communication skills, design effective strategies for social justice practice through dialogue and the arts and learn the foundations of allyship and networking principles,” the Student Diversity Leadership Conference was well-received by the student participants, with both Katherine Lam ‘25 and Cole Edwards ‘24 calling it “transformative.” Anna Liu ‘25 described herself as “overjoyed by the feeling of representation” and all who participated voiced the hope that St. Paul’s will continue to participate in the conference going forward.

Upon returning to the SPS grounds in early December, Bethany Dickerson Wynder, director of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice initiatives and one of the adults who attended the People of Color Conference, reflected on the experience as powerful, joyful and inspirational. “We valued the learning opportunity and the good information it provided as we continue the important work of fostering a sense of inclusion and belonging for all members of our community,” she said.