Connect 2 Change Conference Lives Up to Its Purpose

Connect 2 Change Conference Lives Up to Its Purpose
Kara McDuffee

On Sunday, May 1, Brewster hosted more than 30 students and faculty from five different schools for the one-day Connect 2 Change Conference, which focused on the theme of belonging. And with a plethora of workshops, intentional spaces for affinity groups, and ample time for connections, a sense of belonging wasn’t merely talked about––it was created.

Brewster hosted its first Connect 2 Change Conference in 2019. Unfortunately, the pandemic prevented the event from happening in more recent years. However, the idea behind the conference––to connect students and faculty across the Lakes Region––was something Brewster’s Interim DEI Coordinator Alicia Childers was excited to bring back.

“The goal was to bring people together around issues that sometimes exclude us, or those that we are dealing with as schools seemingly on our own. There’s more that connects us than we realize,” said Ms. Childers. “It’s really important to share perspective and strategies and connections with one another.”

The conference, held in Grayson Student Center, invited students and faculty to enter into deeper dialogues on the intersection of race, class, gender, sexuality, diversity, and equity. Brewster faculty and students led workshops on topics that included inclusive language, period equity, allyship, art and activism, intersectionality, and the international student experience, just to name a few.

“I’m so proud of the kids,” Ms. Childers said. “They spent so much time on their workshops, on top of all their other work and AP prep, and they were phenomenal. We had so many great voices represented.”

Students reflected on how much they enjoyed––and learned from––the workshops. Charrise Darsaw ’25 said she took a lot away from the workshop entitled “Rainbow Capitalism.” 

“I learned about Pink money and what companies do to get different audiences to come to them, even if it’s a PR stunt,” Charrise said. The workshop, created and facilitated by John Northrop ’24, discussed how elements surrounding the LGBTQ+ movement, sexual diversity, and pinkwashing have been incorporated into capitalism, consumerismm, and the market economy––often at the expense of more genuine acceptance. 

Brewster faculty also played a key role in the conference. Many helped create the event and lead workshops, while even more attended as participants to enjoy the learning opportunity themselves. Faculty also appreciated the chance to connect with teachers from other schools, including Proctor Academy and Kingswood Central School. 

Between workshops, the schedule included time for affinity groups, which allowed individuals who shared a common identity to gather and discuss. “You could see how the theme of ‘belonging’ fit in through having different affinity groups, and having a space to talk and connect with one another,” said Charrise ’25. 

Throughout the day, students were encouraged to make new connections and learn more about one another. The ability to meet new people was many of the students’ favorite part of the day.

“We had the time to get to know each other, and it felt easier to make those connections,” Khelsi Petigny ’22 said. “We were able to talk about whatever, and I learned a lot about other students. That was really cool.”

By the end of the day, student attendees intermingled throughout Grayson Student Center’s new lounge area, talking, eating, and singing together. It was easy to see that the goal of the conference––to spark connections––had been achieved.

But according to Ms. Childers, this conference––while successful––was just the beginning. “This year’s conference was a jumping-off point,” she explained. “Our hope and goal is for it to continue each year and grow with more schools.”

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