Saturday Summit on Social Justice Examines Affirmative Action

The theme of the 7th Annual Saturday Summit on Social Justice (SSSJ) at The Masters School was timely and topical: “Taking Affirmative Action: Being in Control of Your Own Narrative.”

On Saturday, November 18, some 90 students from grades 8-12, faculty and administrators from nine local independent schools attended the daylong event, co-hosted by Masters and Rye Country Day School. The summit provides an opportunity for meaningful dialogue on the important roles that diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice play both inside and outside of our school communities.

Associate Head of School for Inclusive Excellence Selas Douglas credited Dean for Inclusive Excellence Esperanza Borrero, Office Manager for the Center for Inclusive Excellence Marie-Louise Miller and Special Events Manager Jessica Sonders with helping the event to run smoothly. 

For Keira Burgos ’24, the highlight of the conference was featured speaker Akil Bello P’24, senior director of advocacy and advancement at Bello discussed what the Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action means for students.

“As a senior student of color currently applying to college, I appreciated Mr. Bello’s honesty on the topic of affirmative action, something that actively affects me and my application process,” Burgos said. “In order to make his point for the audience, he explained the history, the patterns/trends, and the impact of using our voices through our media platforms.”

Douglas said, “Akil Bello’s presentation was excellent and really resonated with students and adults alike. The information he shared, along with the perspective he helped us to develop, felt like receiving the cheat codes of a video game. We left with a better understanding of how the college admissions process works, and how to think about prioritizing our individual needs throughout the process.”

Throughout the day, attendees participated in student and adult affinity groups and workshops such as “Activism and Mobilizing Movements,” “BIPOC Role Models in Media” and “Experiences With Discrimination.”

Burgos said, “I had a great experience co-facilitating a workshop on code-switching and drawing the line between simply adapting to a different environment and the opposite extreme of compromising one's identity in order to ‘fit in’ to certain societal standards.”

Adji Ngom ’25 enjoyed and appreciated meeting with the Black affinity group. “We had discussions about what aspects of school are doing well with diversity, equity and inclusion, and what ways schools can improve,” she said. “We also shared experiences being a Black student in a predominantly white institution (PWI), and how to navigate through those difficulties. It was very uplifting hearing that many other people shared experiences that I have had.” 

Eighth grader Dallas Banks found his first SSSJ both fun and informative. “The workshop that I most enjoyed was ‘Representation Matters.’ This was my favorite because representation really does matter and you shouldn't have to either change yourself to be like other people and fit in or be afraid to face the past when it comes back to you.”

“Overall, I had an amazing time and I hope the event continues to grow and live on for years to come!” Burgos said. “The conversations that we had were some of the best parts of my day — hearing personal stories and contrasting opinions in order to have a productive discussion with people from many different backgrounds and who attend different schools with their own unique customs.” 

At day’s close, Douglas reveled in the community and camaraderie at the pizza and dance party at Doc Wilson Hall. This is the third year that DJ Show provided the music and even a few retro dance moves.

“He pulled them all together and helped them through the steps, all without missing a beat on the turntables,” Douglas said. “It felt like DJ Show really got the spirit of the day and the students we work with. It was such a fun moment!”

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