Penn Charter’s inaugural Diversity Conference brought together 150 area students for an all-day event designed to give young leaders tools to be ambassadors for community building and social justice.

“It is our hope that after your conversations and experiences today, you all will go back to your schools empowered with resources and make great strides to promote the beauty of diversity,” 12th grader Pierce Hodges told students assembled in Penn Charter’s Meeting Room on March 2.

Hodges and classmate Ainyae Holmes conceived of the conference 10 months ago and worked to develop the goals and programming for the day in collaboration with PC Director of Diversity and Inclusion Antonio Williams and Upper School teachers Ruth McGee and Shahidah Kalam Id-In. The students and teachers all worked their networks to build attendance. In addition to Germantown Friends and Springside Chestnut Hill, students attended from nine other independent schools.

Reflecting on the conference afterward, Holmes said the turnout and the content of the discussions gave her hope. “We aren’t alone in caring about these issues,” Holmes said. “When so many people showed up it made me realize that we have many allies who want to help."

Students arrived early morning on a Saturday and finished the day with dinner and dancing, in between, the conference included affinity groups, panel discussions, and workshops on a variety of topics, including race and identity, criminal justice reform, media representation of people of color, and how to discuss difficult topics. In addition to Hodges and Holmes, students developed the content and led many of the workshops and affinity groups.

“I am impressed with this student leadership and their willingness to focus on issues that matter to them and to society,” said Penn Charter Head of School Darryl J. Ford. “This is an important day of conversation and understanding, and that’s what schools are all about.”

The Cheryl Irving Student Diversity Conference was named for Cheryl O. Irving Hon. 1689, the late Penn Charter teacher and champion of diversity.

More photos on Flickr.