A Look at Lawrenceville's Own Activists

Features  /  by Jillian Medina '19  /  December 08, 2017

Kyra Henry ’18

Kyra Henry ’18 has been involved with diversity work at Lawrenceville since she came to the School as a II Former. She has been an active member of the Alliance of Black Cultures (ABC) since her first year and continues to lead the club through her position as Co-President, which she took on during her IV Form year. She spends her free time on Wednesdays participating in open conversation about diversity at the Diversity Council’s weekly exploration event, Lunch and Dialogue. She also plays active roles in other affinity group clubs, including the Latinos Unidos (LAU). She has met with prominent members of the Lawrenceville community, including trustee Marcus Mabry ’85 and Headmaster Stephen Murray H’55 ’65 ’16 P’16 ’21, to discuss the social climate at Lawrenceville. During her Fall Term Research and Social Justice class, she and her peers Alondra Moreno ’18, Gentle Gentle-Ramirez ’18, and Fransheska Perdomo ’19 conducted a study examining the intersectionality of race and mental health among students at Lawrenceville. Needless to say, she is passionate about diversity.

While Henry has actively participated in various events centered around diversity at Lawrenceville, the highlight for her so far has been the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC), which she attended in Anaheim, California, from November 29 to December 2. There, she was joined by 1,600 high school students who shared her passion for diversity, including five other Lawrenceville students. She attended lectures given by social justice advocates and participated in a variety of group activities at the conference. Henry felt that it was “empowering and encouraging” to be in the company of so many open-minded people who were willing to listen to the views and experiences of others. At the conference, she learned that “there are so many [more] layers” to diversity than she had previously thought.

In the future, Henry hopes to apply what she has learned at SDLC and beyond to improve the state of diversity and inclusion at Lawrenceville. The faculty and students who attended SLDC are still in the process of deciding ways to use what they learned at the conference in the broader context of Lawrenceville. They have already showed interest in conducting one of the diversity activities they learned at the conference with students at school meeting. Henry not only hopes to have time during Community Day to speak about her experiences at SDLC to the rest of the Lawrenceville Community but also is willing to share them with whomever will listen. She believes that diversity is an important issue at Lawrenceville and that “if we want to be models for society, we should start here and try to cultivate durable inclusion and [...] conversation.”

Harrison Lee ’19

For Harrison Lee ’19, diversity is an issue that hits really close to home. Coming into the School as a new III Former and establishing himself as one of the only openly gay males on campus definitely came with its challenges. Lee embraces his role within the Lawrenceville community advocating for improvements in diversity and inclusion through his membership in the Diversity Council and his position as Co-President of the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA). Despite his participation in Lunch and Dialogue and open conversation about diversity at GSA club meetings, he has still found it challenging to find a substantial group of students at Lawrenceville who share his experiences as a part of the LGBTQIA+ community and feels that students at the School can often be unwilling to explore their blind spots on the matter. Lee applied to SDLC in hopes that it would be a place “where [he] could be around people who care about [...] diversity issues.”

And SDLC delivered. When Harrison arrived at the conference in Anaheim, he found a home in his LGBTQIA+ affinity group, of which there were over 100 members. As a first-time attendee of the conference, he was empowered by people who shared his passion for diversity “to the greatest extent of [his] life.” As well as being able to share his experiences as a gay male, Lee was able to explore less commonly discussed aspects of identity such as family structure, ability, and socioeconomic status. He even opened his eyes to sources of his own privilege. In this way, Lee discovered his own blind spots in the area of diversity and inclusion at the conference.

The most important takeaway from the conference for Lee was what he learned about “how to be proud of [his] identity.” Lee admitted that being a gay male often caused him to feel insecure in his masculinity, but he said that being around members of his affinity group that were so confident in their identity helped him realize, “it isn’t me] who should be changing for anyone, it’s me who should be changing the world...so that people no longer have to hide who they are.” Lee hopes to pay it forward by using what he learned at SDLC to “help other people be proud of who they are and stand behind their identities.”