News From Masters

Masters Hosts First Social Justice Summit
Posted 11/02/2017 01:00PM

Over 150 independent school students, faculty and administrators engaged in wide-ranging discussions about social justice issues at The Masters School on Saturday, October 28.

The Summit on Social Justice, which was co-hosted by Masters and Rye Country Day School, enabled local independent school communities to come together to discuss subjects ranging from equity and inclusion to identity to the importance of activism. The first-time event included a variety of workshops for adults, workshops for students in grades 8 through 12, and affinity group sessions that explored racial, ethnic and gender identities.

Karen Brown, Director of Equity and Inclusion at Masters, who collaborated with her counterpart at Rye Country Day to organize the summit, said the daylong event was highly successful and the hope is that it will be held again at Masters next year. “There was a lot of enthusiasm” for a repeat of the summit, she added. 

Sophomore Michelle Wei, a Diversity Ambassador at Masters, described the event as “a day of sharing, learning and fun.” 

“It was empowering to think [that at] a time when the country feels divided and pitted against each other, that the generation that will determine the future consists of people like those attending the summit – people who are willing to educate other people and be educated by other people. With an open mind and an open heart, everyone can learn from each other and grow.”

Her comments were echoed by Sophia Van Beek, a Masters eighth grader who said she learned a great deal during the summit. One highlight was a student workshop on “Race and the Judicial System,” she said, describing the session as “inspiring...It reminded me that we have a long way to go and a lot of issues that we have to face....It also reminded me that my opinion and my voice matters.”

Young people “are working to help amend” social injustice in a number of ways, such as by participating in protests, calling out racist comments and actions by others, and drawing attention to the issue via social media, Sophia said.

Masters junior Arjahn Cox, who helped lead a student workshop entitled “The Real Meaning of Racism,” said, “I think we were able to help many people understand their privilege – whether that be racial, [based on] sexuality, gender, ability, etc. – and possibly see why certain things, although said with good intent, can offend a person. I think that everyone who went to the summit learned something new and met at least one new ally.” 

“It was great to be able to debrief with students after their sessions,” noted Alyse Ruiz, CITYterm’s Dean of Residential Life. “The summit provided space to hear more about the different identities and experiences students come with. I feel as though I had a chance to get to know them a bit better as a result!” 

Richard Simon, Language Chair at Masters, said the adult session that he found most interesting was an affinity group for teachers who identify as being of white/European heritage. “It involved teachers sharing their experiences and concerns about bringing social injustice issues into their classrooms, and how to be allies to groups that the teachers themselves don’t identify as being a part of.” 

The group discussion was “particularly powerful because teachers shared very openly about their experiences and concerns” about addressing such topics as socioeconomic class or gender and sexuality, Mr. Simon added.

The teachers plan to continue the conversation by creating a Google Page so that they can stay connected and continue to work on the issues discussed, he said. 

Stefanie Carbone, Masters’ Director of Counseling, spoke of the sense of excitement and collaboration that permeated the day, all the way through the pizza and dance party at Doc Wilson Hall that capped the event.

“The level of excitement and cohesiveness among the students was so great it truly felt like a celebration, a ‘coming together,’ ” Ms. Carbone said. “But what struck me the most was the joy that I saw on the students’ faces at the end of the day and especially on the dance floor. Again, it was a ‘coming together’ and a joyful and uninhibited sharing of expression.”

Much like the conference itself, the music played at the party was diverse. The playlist, which was created by students, included “every possible genre of music,” Ms. Brown said. “They all celebrated each other through it.”

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