A few weeks ago, several GFA faculty and staff attended the NAIS People of Color Conference (PoCC) in San Antonio, Texas. This was GFA’s first year attending the conference in person after two years of virtual attendance.
With over thirty years of history, PoCC offers a safe space for leadership, professional development, and networking for people of color and allies of all backgrounds in independent schools. For GFA Director of Equity and Inclusion Shanelle Henry, the conference was more than just workshops.
“Folks talk about how life-changing it is, spiritual to a degree. It can be difficult in predominantly white environments, where you are the only one of your identity, and it feels like you're in the silo or this vacuum and everywhere you look, you don't see anyone else like you. Then you go someplace like PoCC where you see many people who look like you and are representative of your identity,” said Henry.
Deepthi Gopi, Assistant Director of IT, attended PoCC for the first time this year.
“It was so incredible for me to be able to see a lot of people from my culture and heritage,” said Gopi. “I loved the keynote speaker, Nikki Giovanni. I saw the most courageous woman who doesn’t hesitate to say what she has to say. She’s so confident, direct, and fearless. That was what really stayed with me.”
During the conference, Gopi says she thought a lot about her identity.
“I really felt proud to be a person of color, a woman of color, an immigrant, daughter, sister, coworker. I have so many identities and I’m proud of what I am.”
By attending PoCC, Henry says she and her colleagues come back with new ideas, new strategies, and new ways of thinking about things. In fact, she says one of the best parts of PoCC was seeing how much her colleagues got out of it.
“That's where I find joy. It's less about me and my experience than it is about my peers. That's for me what matters most,” she said. “One of the reasons why I chose GFA, one of the reasons why I so appreciate Bob (Whelan) and our GFA community is because we make PoCC a priority. I'm glad that GFA invests in its faculty and staff to attend the way it does, because it's not like that at every school.”