After two years of being virtual, Gill St. Bernard’s School hosted 9 independent schools and over 70 students and faculty in person for the third annual Middle School Equity and Inclusion Summit. Founded and coordinated by GSB’s DEIC team Tracey Goodson Barrett, Candace Pryor Brown, Cendahl Cornellio-Alter, and Dr. Montana Vasquez-Grinnell and themed “The Journey - Student Leaders Creating Space to Explore Identity, Belonging & Community”, 7th and 8th graders engaged in presentations, group activities, and thoughtful discussions to equip each student with the knowledge and resources to be change agents in their school community.
Dr. Alyea Pierce truly captivated attendees in her keynote presentation. As a National Geographic Explorer, Alyea Pierce uses poetry, spoken word performance, audio, and photography to examine oral storytelling and folklore traditions across the African diaspora. Dr. Pierce shared how journaling began as a creative outlet for recapping her day and her family’s stories. Over time, she transitioned into using poetry as a channel to express her authentic self. “I wrote, I wrote, and I wrote. And then I started rhyming and using wordplay and began using similes and metaphors.” Dr. Pierce cautioned that not every poem is meant to be shared. “Some poems are for yourself. I used that to release my anger, my frustration, my anxiousness, my joy, my fears. I put it all on the paper.”
Dr. Pierce challenged students on the spot to begin writing a poem about their name for 10 minutes straight, without picking up the pen. Attendee Charlotte Brown ’27 “I loved how Dr. Pierce made me think about poetry as more than words. Writing the poem about my name made me think about who I am in a way I never thought of before.”
In a later open mic discussion, many students shared their personal narratives in verse. When ask about her favorite highlights about the summit, Brown shared, “I had two favorite things about the conference. I really liked how we split up into groups so more people could share their feelings. I also enjoyed the open mic because hearing everyone’s poems were really inspiring and creative.”
Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Community Tracey Goodson Barrett is proud of this year’s event. "The Summit provides space for middle school students to think of leadership as reflective, collaborative, and generative. Inspired by Alyea Pierce's keynote, the students shared name poems during the open mic session that exhibited an authenticity resonating with self-awareness and humility. Our hope is that students will see this Summit as a trampoline, providing them with a bounce as they return to their school communities feeling empowered as leaders."
Middle School Director Kyle Armstrong echoed Goodson Barrett’s sentiments. “Dr. Alyea Pierce was super, the programming for the breakout sessions was rich, and the follow-up student sharings were inspiring. I hope next year we can fill the Matthews Theater even more!”