Inspiring social change at Greenwich Student Diversity Leadership Conference


Gabrielle Wheeler '23

Students from Greenwich schools discuss social justice issues at the Greenwich Student Diversity Leadership Conference.

Eleven Sacred Heart Greenwich Upper School students gathered virtually with students from Greenwich Academy, Brunswick School, Greenwich Country Day School, and Greenwich High School to attend the second annual Greenwich Student Diversity Leadership Conference (Greenwich SDLC) February 6.  The student-led conference, organized by the Young Women’s Christian Association of Greenwich (YWCA Greenwich) and the Greenwich First Selectman’s Youth Commission, took place over Zoom.

YWCA Greenwich’s mission is to empower women and girls in the community and promote inclusion and dignity for all regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender identity, according to   Similarly, the Greenwich First Selectman’s Youth Commission strives to represent and promote the voices of Greenwich youth, according to

A workshop group discusses social justice issues.  Leah Allen ’22

Senior Lé-Anne Johnson, juniors Isabella StewartKayla Malcolm-Joseph, Lauren Giuriceo, Leah Allen, and Mary Hawthorn, and sophomores Genevieve Wichmann, Gigi Gazal, Josephine Orr, Katrina Cheng-Slater, and Vanessa Torres engaged in meaningful conversations regarding prominent social justice issues.  Mary and Kayla facilitated a few of these conversations in small groups. 

The conference offered students the chance to learn about the connection between social justice issues and the community of Greenwich.  Josephine chose to attend the Greenwich SDLC to learn how others approach diversity and inclusion issues that impact school communities.

“When I signed up for the Greenwich Diversity conference, I was looking forward to seeing how the bigger picture topics I discussed at the national Student Diversity Leadership Conference impacted the Greenwich community on a smaller scale,” Josephine said.  “Many students from a variety of different high schools attended, so I got to talk with students from GHS, GA, Brunswick, GCDS, and others about their take on how the current political climate and major DI (diversity/inclusion) issues are affecting their own schools.”

During the conference, students listened to a keynote speaker, participated in two workshops and affinity group sessions, and debriefed with students from their school.  Ms. Erin O. Crosby, the first Director of Women’s Empowerment and Racial Justice at the Greenwich YWCA, began the event by speaking to students regarding her work promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.  Specifically, Ms. Crosby encouraged students to continue making their voices heard and participate in resistance.  Ms. Crosby also highlighted to the students the importance of embracing change as lifelong work.

Following her speech, students split into smaller groups where they engaged in an activity called an “identity molecule.”  Students explored their identities by determining which of their identifiers resonated the most with them.  These identifiers included mental or physical ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic class or status.  

Later in the afternoon, students attended affinity groups related to their racial and ethnic identities.  These groups included the Asian/Asian Pacific-Islander Heritage, Black/African Heritage, Latinx Heritage, Multiracial Heritage, White/European Heritage, and LGBTQ+ groups.  These sessions served as safe spaces for students to discuss their own identities with others who shared them as well as discuss ways that they can return to their school communities while feeling represented. 

In the Black/African American affinity group, students discussed the cycles of liberation and oppression and how they can work to reduce the stigma surrounding race.  

“My favorite part was probably talking with the people in my workshop group,” Kayla said.  “They all had such amazing stories to share, and it was honestly such a privilege that they felt comfortable enough to share their experiences with strangers.”

Ms. Erin O. Crosby became the first Director of Women’s Empowerment and Racial Justice at the Greenwich YWCA December 21, 2020.  Courtesy of

The Greenwich SDLC and other diversity conferences allow students to look beyond their experiences and respective communities and instead learn from new individuals.  The small group sessions also gave students the opportunity to meet like-minded students who offered different strategies and solutions to create an inclusive society.  

Josephine attends diversity conferences to learn about new ideas from perspectives outside of her school community, allowing her to analyze human rights issues in different ways.

“I think it is incredibly beneficial for students and faculty to attend diversity conferences within their own communities,” Josephine said.  “Even if it’s outside of your comfort zone, you can learn a lot about yourself and others.  I think it’s a great way to educate yourself on new ideas as well.  No matter your political views, diversity conferences are the perfect place to discuss sensitive topics in a judgment-free zone, hear and share personal experiences, spread awareness, and form new opinions.  Human rights issues affect everyone in ways you might not realize.  Every time I attend a conference, I always leave having learned something new about the world, someone else’s perspective, and myself as well.  I hope I have inspired somebody to attend the next one.” 

Featured Image by Gabrielle Wheeler ’23