SJLS Fosters Unity on Campus


Abby Thomas '23, Odds & Ends Editor

On Saturday, February 1, students and faculty members joined together for the St. Luke’s annual Social Justice Leadership Summit (SJLS). It was a day of transformation, learning about our community, and getting to know the teachers and students here at SLS.

At SJLS, participants took part in different activities and discussions in order to see others in a way they may have never seen them before. SJLS offered students in grades 9-12 and faculty members the option of signing up for either the whole day or shorter sessions. Throughout the day, participants got the chance to dive deeper into their identities and to truly learn about other people’s identities. 

Sadie Vehslage ‘20 said that SJLS was “a key point [in her] life and how [she] view[s] [her] life now.” She also said how her biggest takeaway was “[seeing] how it affected other people.” SJLS has had a positive impact on many people here at St. Luke’s.

A large part of SJLS is getting to know people you don’t get the opportunity to know on a daily basis. When Mr. Thomas got the chance to meet new people, he said, “It really helps… me to see myself in new deeper ways so I can, in turn, see others in our community.” 

Vehslage added, “It’s a day where it doesn’t matter what grade you are, it doesn’t matter what race you are, everyone’s just… there to support each other.”

The day is filled with different activities to demonstrate the challenges people go through, to have discussions that are difficult to have about identity, and to open your eyes to something bigger than yourself. 

One of these activities is the Fishbowl discussions. In a Fishbowl discussion, a select few people sit in chairs in the middle of a large circle and have a conversation while everyone else observes and listens. Mr. Thomas said the Fishbowl exercises help you “to really reflect in a deep, compassionate way on the things that [the community] struggle[s] with.”

Another activity is called the silent movement. The silent movement is when everyone sits in a circle, and one person reads off a list of different things that make up someone’s identity, such as race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, political party affiliation, and gender identification. In each category, there are different subcategories, and when the subcategory that you affiliate yourself with is read, you stand up. This lets everyone take the time to silently share with others. The silent movement is a really good opportunity to get to know someone without talking to them. 

Raven Sead ‘20 said, “I think I always learn something new, especially questions about family structure… You learn that not everyone comes from this… picture perfect household.”

What opened everyone’s eyes the most was the privilege walk. The privilege walk is when everyone lines up on one side of the gym and takes steps forwards and backward based on different questions relating to privilege. 

Sead commented on how the privilege walk “brings [a] light to the fact that yes, we’re all congregating in the same place every day, but we don’t all come from the same backgrounds and circumstances.” 

The unity that SJLS brings to those who go is what makes everyone comfortable with being so vulnerable. As Middle School Faculty Member Magistra Mahler said, “[People who go are] essentially learning a language, the language of diversity and equity and inclusion.”

Consider signing up for SJLS next year, either for the full day or for just one session.