Student Diversity Leadership Conference Attendees Present to Marist Faculty and Staff

Eighteen individuals representing Marist School recently attended the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) People of Color Conference for faculty and staff and the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) for students held concurrently in San Antonio, Texas.
More than 7,800 adults and students from independent schools across the country attended the joint conferences to learn, collaborate, and support one another. The Marist attendees were invited by Mr. Aaron Hill, the school’s director of inclusion and diversity, to share their experiences and discoveries with our school community upon their return to Marist during two faculty and staff professional development meetings.

After several days of workshops, group sessions, and seminars during which Marist faculty, staff, and students separated at regular intervals to join various affinity groups (the support groups organized by the program based on self-identified racial or ethnic background), attendees reported leaving the conference feeling changed.

“My experience was eye-opening,” said Campus Minister Ms. Maureen Pasteris. “I was able to connect with other educators with similar goals in praxis in how to best advocate for our students and foster a sense of belonging for all at Marist School. As a campus minister, my calling and vocation are vitally intertwined with the work of justice and equity as part of my Catholic faith and ministry.”

Several individuals shared a new sense of belonging while attending the conference, while some expressed feeling energized to enact change to improve campus-wide belongingness and progress here at Marist. The opportunity to present their experiences to members of administration, teachers, and staff members gave the attendees the space to express their ideas for furthering Marist’s commitment to fostering a community of inclusion as set forth in our diversity statement.

C. Razon ’23 was especially moved by SDLC speaker Amanda Nguyen, an influential voice in the movement to stop violence against Asian Americans and the writer of the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights, which passed into federal law in 2016. Hearing from Nguyen encouraged Razon to courageously present to her Marist community despite describing herself as “usually very quiet.” Razon shared several ideas for improving the experience of students of color at Marist School beyond mere presence to true inclusion and increased AAPI representation.

Junior A. Theodros ’24 left the conference feeling better able to “start a conversation and listen,” and with an understanding of the importance of “reflecting people’s thoughts when you’re speaking to them and being yourself.” Spending equal time with peers similar and dissimilar creates a sense of compassion, which the Marist educational experience aims to foster in all students.

Director of Personal and Academic Counseling Mrs. Lauren Laba, who also attended the conference, reflected on the work Marist continues to do to progress belongingness among all who serve and go to school at Marist, stating, “I have seen progress and that gives me hope.” She encouraged those in attendance to use the words progress and hope as guiding forces moving forward in improving the Marist experience for all.

M. Lemons ’23 shared enthusiasm for the conference experience and encouraged the teachers in attendance to “make your classrooms celebrate differences.” Lemons called on Marist as a community to “do everything in our power to make people who are different comfortable.” This call to action is in keeping with the core values of the Marist Way, in particular the embodiment of a sense of hospitality, the work of fostering inclusiveness, and daily ardent love of neighbor. Read more about these values and our calling to “be Marist” and live the Marist Way here.

Listening to Marist students, faculty, and staff about their lived experiences strengthens our campus as a space where all members of our community can feel comfortable speaking thoughtfully and courageously across differences. We are grateful to hear from every attendee of the conference and for the lessons they brought back to Marist School. Upcoming activities from the Office of Inclusion & Diversity can be viewed here, and we hope to share more about these events with you soon.

Marist School

3790 Ashford Dunwoody Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30319-1899
(770) 457-7201
An Independent Catholic School of the Marist Fathers and Brothers