Going into the conference, I did not fully understand the extent of how much SDLC would change my life. I had been warned that it was a life-changing experience and that I would make friends that would last forever but it was not conceivable to me that I could transform so fully in two and a half days. After having experienced the conference for myself, I can safely say that for me, SDLC changed me in the way I perceive things and the way I act and think on diversity and I owe much to those couple of days.
It would be too difficult to successfully narrate the days I spent in Philly fully as they were packed with activities, workshops, speakers and learning. Therefore, I’m going to focus on one thing in particular that really influenced me on the trip, the people (specifically the kids, all fifteen hundred of them) I know everyone is expecting me to say that the learning aspects were the most memorable or the maybe even the speakers, but in reality I learned more from the other students at the conference. Without the students there, the facilitators would merely be reading a lesson to us about diversity, but with the student input and the comfortable atmosphere, the lessons became much more pertinent and real.
We were sorted into family groups when we first registered for the conference. It was in this family group of about 45 students where I really saw diversity for what it truly is. Our diversity did not need to be pointed out or labeled for it to be recognized. We were not just diverse in a single sense such as difference in solely race or gender, but rather in an array of ways. In our family, the complete respect given by the other students in the room really was the force that pushed the program. I came to terms with some deep issues related to diversity within myself that I had never allowed myself to recognize. The trust I felt in my family members allowed me to speak freely about myself, my school and diversity in general. So although my facilitators were fantastic, the lessons learned were deep cutting, and the experience itself was fantastic, I would have to thank the students more than anyone.
I wish I could have blogged each day to give a more complete report of the trip. My life has honestly changed because of this experience and it is very difficult to express the extent of that change. Maybe if I had blogged each day, the progression of events would clarify just how special this conference was. But for now, you’ll just have to trust me!