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Exploring bias, diversity and unity

Loyola High School and Harvard-Westlake School, in collaboration with Marlborough, held diversity conferences to discuss racial and socioeconomic issues within Los Angeles independent schools. Harvard-Westlake hosted the second annual Pollyanna Conference on Oct. 27, while Loyola held the Words Matter Summit on Oct. 5.

Anika ‘21, Coco ‘21, Alexis ‘19, Pamela Wright, Lily ‘20 and Lael ‘21 attend the Pollyanna Conference with Wright and Mathematics Instructor Norman Arguelles.

Both institutions focused their conferences on acknowledging biases and creating an environment of diversity and inclusion, both on their respective campuses and others.

Social Justice and Community Partnerships Dean Pamela Wright connected Marlborough students and affinity group leaders with the conferences and attended both events.

“Both conferences opened tough conversations around diversity and equity at Marlborough, and I believe that both were received well,” Wright said. “In fact, after the Words Matter conference, I had five students in my office until 8:30 pm talking about diversity and equity at Marlborough on a Friday night! That signals to me that for some students, these topics are a priority.”

Loyola’s Words Matter Summit, which included schools like Immaculate Heart and Crespi Carmelite High School, was more of a free-flowing conversation than Pollyanna. The summit was dedicated to examining the ways high schools can better foster equity, justice and inclusion.

Exercises conducted during the event allowed students to share personal experiences, explore how to share these stories within their greater communities and invite others to engage in the storytelling to build more nurturing communities.

Emiko ‘19 said she liked the activities at the conference because they helped the group connect.

“It was interesting to see how people presented their identities to others. I thought the activities we did were helpful in fostering an environment of connection and genuine conversations,” Emiko said.

Harvard-Westlake’s Pollyanna Conference explored the ways implicit bias, or unconscious stereotypes, impacts student experience at each of the participating institutions. According to the conference’s mission statement, Pollyanna aims to create an environment “where groups of people can explore together diversity, inclusion and equity and share ideas, experiences and knowledge in order to become change agents in their immediate communities.”

The event included a keynote speaker, author and scholar Jerry Kang, student presentations and multiple workshops.

Alexis ’19 said she enjoyed Kang’s presentation on implicit bias.

“I especially liked the guest speaker, Jerry Kang, because he was able to make the topic of implicit bias easy for conference attendees to comprehend,” Alexis said. “At the end, we talked with our school administrators and teachers about solutions to implicit bias and other issues, like the stigma behind receiving financial aid, the lack of events available to attend for parents who work long hours and so on.”

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