Student diversity conference an eye-opener for students (and parents too)

By Heidi Gilkenson, MB parent

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MB students and faculty attending the SDLC 2015 in Tampa.

Imagine giving your child a stress free weekend, a time full of rich meaningful conversations, connecting with other kids who look like them and have similar lifelong experiences. Giving them a few days to have fun. Sending them someplace where they can play games, learn new skills, laugh a lot and cry sometimes, and realize that they have just stepped through a door to a world that they have never opened before and it feels like home. For those of you who can’t relate to that, but do wear glasses, remember when you put on a pair of glasses for the first time. I don’t know about you, but for me my first reaction to being able to see life clearly was, “WOW! I had no idea.” This is what the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) has been for my children.

SDLC is an annual conference for junior and high school students which takes place throughout the country. This years took place in Tampa, Florida. For our family, we all attend in some way or another. Whether it’s driving Moses Brown’s contingent of 6 students and 2 faculty chaperons to the airport, or receiving a string of text messages describing how the flight was and where they are staying, to receiving several photos of the meals that they are eating. Getting a quick phone call relaying a heart-tugging story shared in an affinity group is not unheard of, as well as more excited texts about great performances presented by students, and descriptions of new friends they’ve made. Picking up an excited yet exhausted teen at 9:30 p.m. from the airport is always enlightening. The summary of the weekend begins in the car and winds down a little after 11:00 p.m., only to begin again the next day and continue in drips and drabs throughout the next two weeks. One year our family was treated to reliving part of SDLC when we hosted three young gentlemen from Boston who had befriended our daughter at the Maryland conference. These young men were part of a Facebook group that a bunch of the SDLC kids had formed. It was a great couple of days where we were treated to so many stories recapping their SDLC experiences. Witnessing the ease in which the kids interacted with each other, and seeing the trust that they shared, was so eye-opening for my husband and I.

SDLC is rich, it’s full, it’s encouraging, it’s fun, it digs down deep to the heart of who you are by helping you define you. It instills confidence and certainty and anchors the kids that attend. It offers them a lifeline that they’ve never experienced and never knew was there. It’s freeing and affirming and it bonds the kids to other kids that have attended, as well as to those that they have traveled there with. As corny as this may sound, it’s life changing. Even though it happens just once a year, the experience lasts forever for the kids who are lucky enough to go.

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