Marlborough senior Josie will host the first VOICES conference on March 19th. Through her Social Justice Capstone project, Josie worked together with the organization Private School Axis to put together VOICES, which stands for Voices for Culturally Empowered Students. Private School Axis is a group that works to address racial and socioeconomic disparities in private schools.
The conference, which will be held at Marlborough, will provide a space where students of color in private schools can come together and empower one another.
“My purpose is to give students of color at predominantly white institutions the resources and steps to make change in their communities, while also preserving their mental health so they do not feel responsible for being a token student,” Josie ’22 said.
Unlike a regular Social Justice Capstone that lasts two semesters, Josie has been planning the VOICES conference since May of 2021. She has spearheaded the project, writing letters, securing resources, and sending emails to ensure the success of the upcoming conference and future conferences to come.
“This is the first conference, so I am trying to lay the groundwork for future students, so that whoever takes over next year can repeat what I did this year and [VOICES] can become annual,” Josie ’22 said.
The conference will feature two key-note speakers: Van Jones and Kimberly Baker Guillemet. Jones, a widely-known author, lawyer and CNN contributor. Jones will speak in the morning and Guillemet, a Marlborough alum, will speak in the afternoon. Guillemet recently published Black Prep: Life Lessons of a Perpetual Outsider, a book that details her experience as a person of color at Marlborough and other schools. Throughout the day, there will be five different workshops that attendees can participate in, including workshops about DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion), mental health and wellness, cultural taxation, action planning and an affinity group workshop.
Before deciding to create the VOICES conference, Josie asked to be paired with an organization like Private School Axis for her capstone project due to her personal experiences as a person of color at predominantly white institutions.
“I don’t see a lot of people who look like me. Socially, different students don’t understand what I am going through, my hair, my family, why I do what I do. It’s been frustrating and, frankly, saddening,” Josie said. “I don’t want another black girl feeling the way I did in 7th grade, and I want to do something about it.”