This December 4–7, Search Associates joined over 7,000 participants at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle for the 2019 National Association of Independent Schools’ (NAIS) People of Color (PoC) and Student Diversity Leadership (SDL) Conference. Chief Operating Officer Rajiv Bhat and Director of School Services George Entwistle met educators from all over the U.S. at this high energy event, whose theme was 1619. 2019. Before. Beyond. Amplifying Our Intelligence to Liberate, Co-Create, and Thrive. The organization describes itself on its website:
The NAIS People of Color Conference is the flagship of the National Association of Independent Schools' commitment to equity and justice in teaching and learning. . . PoCC equips educators at every level, from teachers to trustees, with knowledge, skills, and experiences to improve and enhance the interracial, interethnic, and intercultural climate in their schools, as well as the attending academic, social-emotional, and workplace performance outcomes for students and adults alike.
The conference schedule was packed with featured talks, seminars, and workshops that ranged in length from full- to half day to an hour and fifteen minutes. Social hours and book signings were also scheduled in.
At the beginning and end of each day, guest speakers added depth and inspiration to each day. Author and renowned research and editor, Joy Angela DeGruy, with more than 30 years of professional experience in social work, focused on the intersection of racism, trauma, violence, and American chattel slavery. Futurist and prolific writer and commentator, Mike Walsh advised “on digital transformation and disruptive innovation in this new era of machine intelligence.” Award-winning filmmaker, lawyer, faith leader, and founder of the Revolutionary Love Project, Valarie Kaur has made and trained Yale students to make films about hate crimes, racial profiling, immigration detention, confinement, marriage equality, and Internet freedom. Also compelling was Anand Giridharadas, author of The New York Times best seller Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World among others. Finally, Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor of Education at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies and faculty director for the Center for the Transformation of Schools at UCLA, focused “on ways schools are influenced by social and economic conditions as well as by demographic trends in local, regional, and global contexts.” Featured speakers included scholar and writer Anthony Ocampo; Cinnamon Spear, a Northern Cheyenne woman and the first and only student from her high school to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree at an Ivy League school; and Wayne Au, Associate Professor at the School of Educational Studies at the University of Washington Bothell and editor of the social justice teaching magazine Rethinking Schools.
Keynote Speaker solely for the SDLC was Schuyler Bailar. The first transgender athlete to compete in any sport on an NCAA Division 1 men’s team, Schuyler, by age 15, became one of the nation’s top-20, 15-year-old breaststrokers. By 17, he set a national age-group record. Schuyler swam for Harvard University, on Harvard’s most successful team in 50 years. Schuyler shares his story about the decision to transition at the risk of sacrificing the prospect of being an NCAA champion.
In Exhibitors Hall, our Search Associates (SEARCH) certainly were busy, talking with numerous educators intrigued with teaching abroad. About 75 teachers gave Rajiv and George contact details to receive more information about international education and opportunities. And Rajiv and George spoke with many more. On at least five or six occasions, teachers stopped by to chat about their connection to Search Associates (SEARCH), having been placed by SEARCH in schools abroad in years past. Without exception, the experiences they shared about living and working overseas were both positive and life-changing. It was great to have these former SEARCH candidates tell their affirmative stories with other visitors at the table listening on.