Holderness School Hosts 2nd Annual All-School Student-Led Conference

February 23, 2018

Holderness School explores an equity and inclusion theme each year. This year the community has focused their attention on the topic of disability, ability, and access and is encouraged to develop a better understanding of how this impacts all of our lives and communities. Ms. Jini Sparkman, the director of equity & inclusion, has organized Holderness School’s second annual all-school student-led conference. This initiative is intended to empower students in their own learning. On Monday, February 26, twenty-five sessions will be lead by students. Below is a sneak peek into what many of the conference sessions will address and why students are passionate about these topics.


SESSION #1 – 10:05 – 10:50 AM


“Creative Vision” — Mina Nguyen and Victoria Michienzi (Session #1, Schoolhouse 24)

We will lead a blindfolded photo session. In this workshop, participants will be divided into pairs of guides and blindfolded photographers. The guide is responsible to help the blindfolded photographer get around the location safely as well as guide them to interesting objects for them to photograph with their phones. We chose to create this workshop to take away sight and intensify other senses that a person might otherwise take for granted. This experience gives the photographers and guides abilities and disabilities that they never they had before. This activity also builds a relationship between the guides and photographers where one can have the ability to help the other their disability.


Learning About Learning — Caitlin Blinkhorn (Session #1, East Wing)

I will lead an exploration of the different ways that we learn. In the workshop, we will participate in a variety of activities that highlight some of the components of learning disabilities.  I chose to lead this because I want to learn more about learning and cognitive disabilities.


How Do We Talk About Abilities and DisabilitiesIsabella Qian (Session #1, Schoolhouse 22)

I will lead a presentation/discussion about talking about ability and disability. I decided to lead this because I wasn’t sure myself about talking about/with people who have disabilities. I wanted to both learn about it myself and teach others on how to be respectful.


Crohn’s: A Family Story — Bernadette McLaughlin (Session #1, Schoolhouse 4)

I will lead a presentation about Crohn’s disease which runs in my family. In the workshop, I will discuss the family issues that we face and facetime some of my siblings to hear their perspective. I chose to lead this because many people have health issues all around us that you cannot see. I want to bring awareness to this disease in particular and how it affected my family.


Adaptive Fitness Claudia Cantin and Mikayla Stolar (Session #1, Bartsch Strength & Conditioning Room)

We will lead a workshop about athletics for those with disabilities. In the workshop, we will start with a discussion and then walk through a workout with different disabilities. We chose to lead this workshop because athletics are important to the both of us and we hope that everyone has the ability to participate in fitness in some way.


Vision Impairment Simulation — Tiffany Feng (Session #1, Schoolhouse 21)

I will lead some games about vision impairment in the workshop. We will have activities such as Braille decoding and other fun things. I chose to lead this workshop because I want to raise people’s awareness of why is it important to fundraise for cataract surgeries and also I want to let them know that vision impairment is something that will affect most of us some point in our life.


SESSION #2 – 11:00 – 11:45 AM


Challenges and Opportunities of Disabilities — Megan Gillis (Session #2, Schoolhouse 23)

I will lead a workshop that explores the different challenges and opportunities that come along with different disabilities. The workshop will be interactive and include some writing, a short presentation, and short discussion. The presentation will be about Genu Valgum. This is very important to me because I will be sharing my own story in the presentation.


Understanding Parkinson’s — Kelly Qian (Session #2, Schoolhouse 1)

I will lead a workshop about Parkinson’s. In the session, we will talk about what Parkinson’s is and we will also conduct a simulation of how Parkinson’s affects your body. I chose to lead this workshop about Parkinson’s because my grandfather was diagnosed with this illness four years ago. I did not know of the illness when he was first diagnosed. I had to do research to understand Parkinson’s, and along my research, I found that there’s been no cure discovered for it yet. It has had a huge impact on my family, and we all have been trying to be there with him as much as possible for him. By doing this workshop I hope I can make my grandpa proud.


American Policy and Disabilities — Kitt Urdang (Session #2, Schoolhouse 2)

I will lead a workshop about laws that affect Americans with disabilities. We will watch a video, research legislation, and create a timeline as a group for the rights of disabled Americans. I chose to lead this because I think we should all learn about the progress we’ve made and the work that still needs to be done to give disabled Americans the rights they deserve.


Our Story: Dyslexia and Dysgraphia — Jackman Beyreuther, Ally Trask, and Ben Jansen (Session #2, Schoolhouse 22)

We will lead a discussion about dyslexia and dysgraphia. In our session, we will share our own stories and answer any questions that you may have.


Interconnection of Autism — Linh Nguyen Hoang (Session #2, Schoolhouse 24)

I will lead a workshop about different ways of representing autism in visual and performing arts to raise awareness about disabilities and to send the message that uniqueness is what makes us individuals but we are all interconnected in this world. We will look at different ways films, literature and visual arts have represented autism and at the end of the workshop, we will create a visual symbol for the way that we are all connected through our unique abilities.


Music and Community — Will Harker (Session #2, Carpenter Music Classroom)

I will lead a music and songwriting based workshop. In this workshop, I will be listing to all kinds of music and write our own song about bringing people together through music.


Art & Mental Wellness — Carolyn Fernandes and Amanda Vansant (Session #2, Upper Carpenter)

We will lead a workshop about ways to cope with anxiety through art. In the workshop, we will draw and throw paint (don’t worry about being “artistic”.  We chose to lead this workshop because we both struggle with anxiety and have found that art is an amazing outlet for many built up emotions.


Ability Walk — Benny “Eyebrow” Jerome (Session #2, Gallop Gymnasium)

I will lead an activity called the Ability Walk. In the workshop, we will go through different scenarios and highlight varying abilities that make us unique yet alike. I chose to lead this workshop because I believe that every single person is unique in their own way. But, there are also abilities that people have that make individuals alike in more ways than one. Thanks



Wheelchair access at Holderness School — Nick Grammas, Beckham Bayreuther, Abby Boes (3:00 PM, Livermore)

We will guide a workshop where we give a group of students a tour around campus in wheelchairs. The workshop will show students what life at Holderness is like in a wheelchair and show the accessibility of campus. We all chose to lead this conference because of the fact that as present and former Blue Key leaders we have experienced many tours and would like all students to have a better understanding of life in a wheelchair at Holderness School.

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