The Greenwich SDLC teaches the importance of youth advocacy


Caterina Pye '23

Greenwich students ignite change in their community at the Student Diversity Leadership Conference.

The third annual Greenwich Student Diversity Leadership Conference (Greenwich SDLC) occurred February 5.  In this conference, students from Sacred Heart Greenwich, Greenwich Academy, Greenwich High School, and Greenwich Country Day School aimed to go beyond traditional allyship through igniting action and practicing agency.  Sacred Heart Greenwich students Katrina Cheng-Slater and Leah Allen participated in the conference over Zoom. 

Ms. Antonia Spares Thompson encourages students to be more active in social change. Leah Allen ’22

The First Selectman’s Diversity Advisory Committee and the Young Women’s Christian Association of Greenwich (YWCA) held Greenwich SDLC in partnership.  In addition, the First Selectman’s Youth Commission endeavors to improve the lives of young people in Greenwich and promote diversity, according to  The YWCA shares a similar mission as they focus on female empowerment and racial justice, according to

Greenwich students participated in a day of reflection, conversation, and collaboration on issues that shape their worldview and influence their education, according to  The participants of Greenwich SDLC explored their unique identities and personal power while reflecting on the ways they can create social change in their schools and communities. 

Ms. Erin O. Crosby, YWCA Director of Women’s Empowerment and Racial Justice, was the keynote speaker of the 2021 conference and helped to plan this year’s event.  In an interview leading up to this year’s conference, she addressed the importance of youth voices in the YWCA mission to eliminate racism and empower young women.

“Student voice remains critical to achieving racial and gender equity in our community,” Ms. Crosby said according to “Young people have always led change in this country, and we need their participation more than ever to uphold democracy.  I look forward to working with students and educators to co-create an inclusive and anti-racist future.”

Focusing on the theme of igniting action and agency, Ms. Antonia Spares Thompson, Director of Racial Justice Initiatives at Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, spoke to attendees about social justice work and effective allyship.  Ms. Thompson has 26 years of experience as an attorney in addition to her work within the Juvenile Justice system.  In her talk, she emphasized the importance of engaging communities to become involved in activism.

Leah Allen ’22 facilitates the Black/African Heritage affinity group.  Leah Allen ’22

Following Ms. Thompson, the students engaged in workshops about authentic allyship versus performative allyship.  The group members wrote resistance statements and strategic, measurable, ambitious, realistic, time-bound, inclusive, and equitable (SMARTIE) goals to brainstorm ways to bring change into their communities.

Participants later split into affinity groups based on racial and ethnic identity.  These groups included the Asian/Asian Pacific-Islander Heritage, Black/African Heritage, Latinx Heritage, Multiracial Heritage, White/European Heritage, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) groups.  Students interacted and shared personal experiences with each other.

Greenwich SDLC’s initiative was encouraging students to go beyond allyship.  Participants learned how to take a more active approach when addressing issues in and surrounding their communities.  The facilitators encouraged students to take action.  Junior Katrina noted the importance of hearing diverse perspectives and how that contributes to a better community.

“I think the youth voice is an incredibly important aspect of this community as a whole and this conference really exhibits this value through its workshops,” Katrina said.  “In these workshops, we discussed things like allyship as well as our own interpretations of situations in which it came time to speak up and stand up for others.  This conversation helped me to hear the voices of others in our community highlighting our need for certain programs and training for various situations. Additionally, this conference called attention to the youth voices that were asking to be heard but were being ignored subsequently underlining the community’s need to hear them.”

Featured Image by Caterina Pye ’23