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St. Mark’s Hosts AISNE High School Students of Color Conference

St. Mark’s Hosts AISNE High School Students of Color Conference
Jackie Waters
On Saturday, April 22, St. Mark’s School hosted 359 students and 58 adults from 42 schools throughout New England for the 2023 AISNE High School Students of Color Conference. From 1:00 to 10:00 p.m., attendees enjoyed keynote speakers, workshops, affinity group gatherings, dinner, and dancing.

Marvin Pierre kicked off the conference with a keynote address and also led a deep dive discussion workshop. Pierre, a graduate of AISNE school Tabor Academy, currently serves as the executive director at 8 Million Stories in Houston, Texas, a nonprofit founded in 2017 to support disconnected, vulnerable youth through education, skills training, employment, and authentic relationships.

Following Pierre’s address, students chose from 34 available workshops led by faculty, guests, and other students. Many elected to participate in: Breaking Barriers: Paving the Path to Success for Young People of Color; History and Care of Black Hair; African American Bingo; Mad Hot Salsa; and Drag Queens: Armored Dress to Fight Injustice. Attendees also enjoyed time together in affinity group gatherings led by adults and students.

The closing keynote was delivered by Jennifer De Leon, who also offered a writing workshop at the conference. De Leon is the author of the young adult novels Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From and Borderless (both published by Simon & Schuster) along with White Space: Essays on Culture, Race, and Writing (winner of the Juniper Prize and published by the University of Massachusetts Press). She is the editor of the award-winning anthology Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education (published by the University of Nebraska Press) and currently the visiting writer in the MFA in Creative Writing Program at UMass Boston, as well as the founder of Story Bridge LLC, a series of programs and workshops that bridge storytelling and DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging).

For the past two years, this conference for high school students of color has been virtual, so when AISNE put out a call in October to see if any schools would be willing to host, St. Mark’s new Director of Community and Equity Affairs Rick DaSilva jumped at the opportunity. DaSilva, alongside Assistant Director of Community and Equity Lizzy Jones, teamed up with Kristi Jacobi and Bob Rojee from the School’s Auxiliary Programs Department to plan the 2023 conference, which garnered positive feedback and praise from attendees.

Some of the highlights shared included:
  • Seeing my students thrive in an environment that is designed specifically for their growth and success in boarding school. I also enjoyed the talk on the drive home - a positive testament to the growth and support they felt.
  • Student-led workshops...those were AWESOME!!
  • The ability for my students to connect with students from other schools. There are very few opportunities like this for them to meet one another.

“Well done all,” shared one participant. “You have my immense gratitude and awe.” “Seriously, it was great,” another wrote. “Y'all are awesome!”

St. Mark’s last hosted the AISNE HS SOCC in 2019. For photos from this year’s 2023 conference, check out our SmugMug gallery.

AISNE High School Students of Color Conference logo designed by Jihu Choi ’25
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