On Wednesday, October 20, Gill St. Bernard’s School hosted 17 independent schools and over 160 students and faculty for the second annual Middle School Equity & Inclusion Summit. In this virtual event, themed “Connect. Share. Amplify!”, 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.
Attendees were captivated by this year’s keynote speaker, Avi Roque, an artist and voice actor who identifies as Latinx, Trans, Nonbinary and Queer. Most recently, Roque has voiced the first nonbinary Disney character, Raine Whispers, on the animated series, The Owl House.
Roque spoke about feeling out of place when younger and how labels are unavoidable in today’s society. They encouraged students to "Find the courage to be yourself. Don’t hide your truth to try to fit in.” Roque found their own channel of expression through the arts. They explained how different milestones in their life shaped who they are today. "You and your story are unique. Own it all! There is no other you, like you out there. Enjoy the process and the journey. Be open to how things unfold. You will find your way and your place. Just keep going."
After the keynote, participants divided into discussion groups to examine the following questions.
What do I need to feel included in my community?
What does my community need to provide additional spaces of support?
What steps can students take to help make positive social changes to their school climate?
GSB’s Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Tracey Goodson Barrett shared, "we are thrilled to provide a platform for middle school students to engage with each other across schools, articulate their perspectives, and amplify their voices in ways that personify, courage, integrity, respect, and compassion. My hope is that the participating students will be able to take what they learned today back to their respective schools to help foster inclusion and belonging within their communities."
The Middle School Equity & Inclusion Summit was founded at Gill St. Bernard’s School and is coordinated by our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Community Office team members.
And in the words of Avi Roque, “Be True, Be You!”