Sixty students from five Connecticut independent schools came together on November 6 for the second annual SPHERE Summit. The Summit was created to recognize the unique needs and experiences of students of color at predominantly white schools. The Summit provides a collaborative space where students can learn from each other about identity, coalition building, leadership and activism. It seeks to unite, inspire and empower students of color with the goal of enhancing their overall experience at SPHERE schools.
Five of the eleven Connecticut SPHERE schools participated in this year’s event, including The Ethel Walker School, Loomis Chaffee, Miss Porter’s, Watkinson School and Westminster School. Walker’s hosted this year’s gathering.
Eight Walker’s students planned and facilitated the Summit. According to one of the organizers, Brianna Silva ’16, “The Summit meant everything to me because it allowed teens of color from predominantly white schools to gather in a safe place to share and listen to each other’s stories. By coming together, we were able to unite and empower one another, and ultimately find the strength and impact of our voices in our different communities. The Summit reminds us that we, as people of color, are not alone and our voices are important.”
The interactive one-day conference was entirely student-facilitated. The day included interactive activities, group discussions and ‘open mic,’ performances. In addition, Bulaong Ramiz, who graduated from Watkinson in 2007, joined us at Walker’s to deliver the keynote address. Ms. Ramiz is an educator and activist currently serving as the Director of the Multicultural Resource Center at Amherst College. Recently published in the Huffington Post, Bulaong uses her personal story and intersecting identities to advocate for students most marginalized on campus. She continues to push institutions and individuals to engage in true community building through social justice and equity work.
SPHERE is a consortium of independent schools from the greater Hartford area that came together in the early 70’s because of a common commitment to diversity, originally expressed through summer enrichment programs for students from the city of Hartford. Today, the Consortium consists of eleven member schools: Avon Old Farms, Cobb School Montessori, The Ethel Walker School, Kingswood Oxford School, The Loomis Chaffee School, Miss Porter’s School, Pomfret School, Renbrook School, Suffield Academy, Watkinson School and Westminster School.