MS Conference Spreads Words of Kindness, Inclusivity

Middle school students attended an in-school Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice conference on Feb. 28, 2024. The conference was titled, “Building a Community of Belonging,” and featured guest speaker Jason Mundy, the director of diversity, equity and engagement at Durham Academy. Mr. Mundy is also the former head of Norfolk Collegiate’s upper school and middle school. 

Mr. Mundy’s message was, “I’m just a middle schooler; what difference can I make?” It was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy of nonviolence. The conference opened with an address from Head of School Scott Kennedy, Head of the Middle School Chris Tillson, Director of Diversity and Inclusion (DEI) Dr. Nefertiti Makeda, and a special video produced by the Middle School Allies DEI Club and upper school students who attended a National Association of Independent Schools Student Diversity Leadership Conference.

“I thought the conference was amazing, it taught valuable lessons for everyone,” said Laci B. ’28, who serves as the Allies Club vice president. “My goal (for the conference) was to get everyone to try to be kinder and to see things from a different perspective, while our goal for the conference was to share what our club was about and to teach everyone to be more of a kind inclusive person.”

Allies President Taylor B. ’28 agreed. “The conference was very educational, and I especially loved our guest speaker, Mr. Mundy. He was truly amazing and discussed some great points. I’m super excited about what the middle school will improve and make it even more exciting next year,” she said.

After Mr. Mundy’s keynote, students gathered in advisory classes to deconstruct his message. There was intense discussion and note comparisons that led to each grade level producing a list of five to six main points that resonated with them. Group representatives joined Mr. Mundy on stage, and he guided them in choosing the final main points. 

As a result, students began to see the differences they could make in helping to build a school community of belonging. The conference also featured: 
  • A banner where students expressed how they will make a difference
  • Selfie stations with picture frames proclaiming, “I make a difference!” 
  • Teambuilding games to help students see how they could help one another and cheer each other on courtesy of Middle School Counselor Pannill Titus  
The conference concluded with reflection time designed by Middle School Dean Jill Archer. 
Below are a few of the student reflections:
·   You may not agree with people’s opinions, but you must always respect them.

·   Mr. Mundy’s message was to be the person you want to be remembered as.

·   Mr. Mundy’s message meant if you are a better person, your energy will lead others to make a safe space and a belonging space. I will start working on myself to make a bigger impact.

Middle/Upper School Campus

Lower School Campus