SAGE conference: where we’re planted

Another successful SAGE conference was hosted earlier in April.

This year, for the first time since 2019, LM Student Activists for Greater Equality (SAGE) partnered with Harriton SAGE to put together an in-person conference for students from both high schools. In past years, these conferences varied in themes, but always contained workshops, guest speakers, and discussions surrounding social justice issues. 

On April 11, SAGE hosted a conference titled “Where We’re Planted,” a play on the phrase “bloom where you’re planted,” with a theme centered around localactivism. SAGE officers from LM and Harriton worked for months, meeting regularly over zoom with their advisors Laura Stiebitz, Andrea Wilson-Harvey, and the Director of School and Community Relations Amy Buckman, to organize and schedule an exciting day full of interesting guest speakers and workshops led by many student officers. Kendall Johnson ’23, co-president of LM SAGE, expressed, “The conference was definitely a big job and took a lot of productive collaboration, compromise, and problem solving.” Part of the planning process included advertising and collecting registrees. In the end, close to 200 students from the two schools registered and were excused for the school day in order to attend the event. Stiebitz emphasized, “Launching our first in-person conference since 2019 took lots of team work andlogistics—and working quickly under pressure as we navigated last minute changes.”    

To start the day off, SAGE planned to host Josh Shapiro, PA’s governor, as their headlining speaker. For many members of SAGE, having the governor come to speak at the conference was very exciting. Noah Barkan ’24, SAGE officer and the club’s primary contact with Shapiro’s team, said he was very excited because “while grassroots activism is important, a lot of the big influence comes from politics and government.” Unfortunately, the week before the event, the governor emailed club members, letting them know that a last minute emergency came up and he had to reserve the week to stay in Harrisburg. Barkan admitted, “we were all very disappointed, but quickly came up with a backup plan and were able to get a video from the governor to show at the beginning of the conference.”

After viewing the video from the governor, students went to their firstworkshops, which they had chosen earlier. The conference offered seven workshops led by both LM and Harriton SAGE officers: Push Back Against Period Poverty, Conversations on Consent & Coercion, We Want a Future: a Greener LMSD, The Road to Civic Accessibility, Conserving the Community: Save Chinatown, The Trouble with Advanced Curricula, and The Importance of Pride. Most of the workshops incorporated information and action, while simultaneously providing a space for students to discuss the issues they were learning about. 

Dylan Spivak ’24, who helped lead the workshop on pride, explained that her workshop focused on “book bannings in the Central Bucks School District that are disproportionately targeting queer literature” and “anti-trans legislation throughout Pennsylvania.” They presented new information and discussed these topics, talking heavily about the ways local activism could address the issue. Stiebitz shared, “What I enjoyed most was watching the students lead the workshops: their passion is contagious.”

| Photo courtesy of LMSD

After an hour in their first workshop, students were able to attend a second workshop of their choosing. Then, after an hour in those, the students came together in the auditorium for a final speaking event. The afternoon’s speaker was Dr. Lisa Spacek M.D. Ph.D., an infectious disease specialist who works with HIV AIDS treatment. She spoke about social determinants of health, how members of the LGBTQ+ community often don’t receive optimal care, and the shift that needs to be made towards providing optimal care across the board. Adina Olson ’24, who attended the conference, noted, “I was really inspired to take action after learning so much new information and having such powerful discussions.” Both attendees and SAGE officers enjoyed the experience; Johnson shared, “I am really proud of the product we produced and am really honored that I got to work with such a diverse, intelligent group of young activists.”

 

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