Secondary And Still We Rise Conference Goes Virtual

Posted On Wednesday September 30, 2020
The Annual And Still We Rise Secondary Conference took place online this year.

Conference topics included art, well-being, self-care, and self-advocacy

In May, the Durham Black Educators’ Network (DBEN) hosted their 10th annual And Still We Rise Secondary Conference. But this time the three-day conference took place online instead of in a Durham District School Board (DDSB) school.

“When we realized the schools would still be closed, our students wanted to make sure the conference happened regardless. It’s really a testament of their will to reframe passion to be impactful to others,” explains Eleanor McIntosh, Past Chair of DBEN and Ajax HS Principal.

Each year, Student Ambassadors are the main organizers of the And Still We Rise Secondary Conference, and this year was no exception.

This year’s conference focused on four virtual workshops presented by DBEN Student Ambassadors. The workshops were: Take a Breath (discussing self-care), Black is Art (learning to embrace the power and beauty in Black culture), The Chill Zone (a free space to talk openly about anything), and No Closed Doors (discussing self-advocacy).

Kayana Bucknor, a Grade 12 student at J. Clarke Richardson Collegiate and DBEN Student Ambassador says that hosting the conference virtually allowed them to reach more people. “We were able to extend the awareness beyond DDSB. The online aspect gave us the advantage of sharing our message with people all over Ontario.”

On the final day of the conference, viewers enjoyed an endnote speech from DDSB alumnus Lincoln Alexander Estridge. Among many vocations, Estridge is the founder of The Fight Inside Society, an organization dedicated to raising mental health awareness and bringing mental health care workers to public schools.

“It was really nice to hear his perspective on things as he only graduated from high school a few years ago. He talked about ways that we can continue to make an impact in our communities,” enthuses Adriana Cadogan, a Grade 12 student at Pickering HS and DBEN Student Ambassador. 

Cheryl Rock, Chair of DBEN, says the annual conference provides opportunities for both the Student Ambassadors and the students and educators who attend the workshops, “It allows Student Ambassadors to use their voices in a creative way to impact the school and greater community. The conference also shows students that their well-being is supported, and they too can create change when they become empowered and advocate for themselves and others.”

Bianca Smith, a Grade 11 student at O’Neill CVI and DBEN Student Ambassador, concludes “We want to thank the DBEN staff mentors for creating a safe space and teaching us to be proud to share our voices. We couldn’t do this without them.”