Eighty students from seven Connecticut independent schools came together in November for the first annual SPHERE Summit. The Summit was created in recognition of 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, leadership and activism. It seeks to unite, inspire and empower students of color with the goal of enhancing their overall experience at SPHERE schools.
Seven of the eleven Connecticut SPHERE schools participated in this year’s event, including Avon Old Farms, The Ethel Walker School, Loomis Chaffee, Miss Porter’s School, Suffield Academy, Watkinson School and Westminster School. Walker’s hosted this year’s gathering.
Twelve Walker’s students planned and facilitated the Summit. According to one of the organizers, Student Body President Lian Nicholson ’16, “The Summit meant the world to me because it provided students of color the opportunity to discuss the various issues we face, going to predominantly white schools. We were able to come together and empower one another through our personal stories and perceptive insights. It was a time to unite, inspire and empower one another. The Summit was an acknowledgment that students of color need a safe space to talk about problems with people who share similar experiences.”
The interactive one-day conference was entirely student-facilitated. The day included interactive activities, group discussions, and ‘open mic,’ performances. In addition, Lizzie Turner ’14, who was Walker’s Student Body President her senior year, came back to Walker’s to deliver the keynote address. Turner was selected as one of 40 Women for the Next 40 Years by the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund, an honor given to 40 women ages 16-40 who plan to help pave the way as leaders for the next 40 years.
SPHERE is a consortium of independent schools from the greater Hartford area that came together in the early 70s because of a common commitment to diversity, originally expressed through summer enrichment programs for students from 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.