Equity, belonging attends conference at COD

Students visit, pick up new methods of inclusion, empathy


Keynote speaker at conference delivers presentation about belonging (photo courtesy of Riley Dunlavy ‘23).

Matthew Klos, Reporter

Students part of the Equity and Belonging Committee attended the Equity and Mental Health Student Leadership Conference at College of DuPage on March 2. The conference largely focused on empowering youth to eventually lead in areas of equity and inclusion with a more specific focus on issues that impact high school students. 

Founder of “Coffee, Hip-Hop & Mental Health,” Christopher LeMark spoke to the students in attendance to begin the conference. “Coffee, Hip-Hop & Mental Health” is a Chicago-based organization that provides free individual and group therapy to those who need it. 

“[LeMark] taught me so many new things at the conference,” member of the Equity and Belonging Committee Riley Dunlavy ‘23 said. “He taught us how important it is to not let our implicit biases get in the way of truly understanding each other. We as a committee plan to bring that message back to LT and the community.”

Conferences, like the one committee members attended at College of DuPage, are becoming more popular throughout schools. 

“I think having some sort of mental health conference here at LT would be extremely beneficial to help students feel comfortable reaching out to a teacher or a trusted adult when they face these problems,” Dunlavy said. “Having connections between peers and staff members is especially important in making students feel a sense of belonging and comfort within their own school.”  

LT currently holds a seven-day mental health policy that grants students the option to take up to seven mental health days each year. 

“In some cases, this policy needs to be extended,” member of the Equity and Belonging Committee Lukas Phillips ‘24 said. “Everyone is going through their own mental health issues and has their own problems to manage outside of school. Although LT has done an excellent job adapting to the new mental health resources that are frequently being introduced.” 

Director of Equity and Belonging Jennifer Rowe was hired in hopes of improving student engagement and academic achievement throughout each grade level. 

“Wellness is so important and adults need to be explicit in supporting youth to have all the resources they need,” Rowe said. “It is important for people offering the aid to these students to understand that each person has different experiences and problems they are dealing with. We are here to create a safe and affirming environment where all members of our community feel respected and visible.”