Local College Students Attend SLC Convention

From left to right front row: Miguel Gio Arriaga, Rafael Escoto, Francisco Pacheco. From left to right back row: Yanique Linton, Larissa Bonnet, Teanna Braine, and Elizabeth Merryfield.

Five Sheridan College students and two of the school’s advisors traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah, recently to attend the National Student Leadership Diversity Convention (NSLDC) along with over 200 attendees from other colleges and universities from around the country.

The NSLDC is the largest national gathering of student leaders and advisors to address the most critical topics of diversity and social justice challenging today’s college campuses.

The annual convention features experiential workshops, keynote sessions, and round table discussions designed to help students and advisors to address the topics of diversity and social justice. It challenges students to explore how various elements of diversity affect their own college experiences.

Sheridan Business student Miguel Gio Arriaga said the convention’s keynote speech by Dr. Michael “Mykee” Fowlin was something he “thinks the whole world should watch.” He said Fowlin used his professional acting talents and his training in psychology to celebrate the differences between people and create empathy. Fowlin, who has been formally acting since age 11, aims to create an atmosphere of worldwide inclusion, not just tolerance, towards all people.

“Pain helps mold us into the people we are today, and I think it can inspire us to create positive change”

“He took on the personas of about twenty different people during the speech, such as a person with a disability, a black person, and many others, to help you (to) empathize with the struggles of all (different) types of people,” Arriaga said of Fowlin.

Empathy and knowledge of other cultures is something Rafael Escoto, success coach and retention coordinator at Sheridan College, and one of the advisors on the trip, hopes the students will bring back what they learned to campus, and share it with other colleagues, peers, and students.

“Sometimes, when we lack knowledge about different cultures we are afraid of what we don’t know, and that causes us to act in a negative way,” Escoto said. “I think the more experiences like this we can give students, the more they will learn to be curious instead of afraid.”

While in Salt Lake, the students also learned how to discuss difficult topics and listen to one another in a productive way. Yanique Linton, a Health Sciences major, said the conference was a chance for her to step outside of her comfort zone and share her own personal experiences with other students.

“The best thing about this conference was having the opportunity to talk one-on-one with other students and hear what they’ve been through and learn from each other,” she said.

Fellow student Francisco Pacheco agreed, “We got into groups and people shared personal stories. Everyone felt comfortable and was willing to listen.”

Both the students and advisors said that hearing and sharing personal stories about discrimination was one of the most challenging, yet impactful, aspects of their experience.

“The most difficult part for me was hearing people talk about times they were discriminated against and describing the pain they went through because of it,” said Larissa Bonnet, director of campus life and housing and another advisor on the trip.

Even though it was difficult to hear, Linton said she thought the pain that comes from negative experiences could be a good thing.

“Pain helps mold us into the people we are today, and I think it can inspire us to create positive change,” she said.

One of the most beneficial workshops for the group was called “No More Drama: Managing Conflict Effectively on Campus”, which taught them conflict resolution skills that they can use to facilitate difficult conversations, meetings, or events. Escoto said that he and the students learned tools they will be able to use during campus discussions, such as what types of questions help people open up.

The group agreed the skills they gained and the experiences shared at the conference will help them as they host events and discussions this semester that are geared toward making Sheridan College a more inclusive, welcoming place for students, educators, and administrators.

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