Student Leadership Diversity Conference

On November 29, 2023, six students and two faculty chaperones stepped off a plane in St. Louis, Missouri, ready to attend the National Student Leadership Diversity Conference. This multicultural gathering of students and teachers from around the country facilitates crucial conversations among small groups of individuals over several days.
Student Leadership Diversity Conference



The Student Leadership Diversity Conference was a valuable and worthwhile experience for students and teachers. Held in St. Louis, Missouri, the conference presented many possibilities for improvement within Malvern. The students who attended were Syncere Harley ’26, Nate Padula ’24, Donnie Sadoff ’26, Seamus Brogan ’24, PJ Holmes ’25, and Cade Cooper ’27. 


Mr. Dante Coles, 11th grade Student Academy Leader and Upper School Social Studies teacher, chaperoned the trip. He spoke on the importance of brotherhood and student development.  


“The conference was an unbelievable experience to witness the personal growth and camaraderie that developed among the students. The trip not only showcased the beauty of the destinations we visited but also the beauty of human connections and shared experiences. It’s something that will undoubtedly stay with me for a long time,” Coles said.

Coles described how this conference benefited the students and teachers who attended. He also explained how it can impact student leadership and diversity within the Malvern Prep Community.  

“I believe that the recent experience has considerable benefits for the Malvern Community. Traveling outside of our familiar surroundings and exploring different environments exposes our students to individuals with unique backgrounds and perspectives, showcasing the beauty of individual differences. While we may encounter diversity at home, the experience is significantly enriched when immersed in another state,” Coles said.

Coles spoke further on all of the benefits presented at this conference. He believes that the conference can be used as a way to benefit the community. 

“This exposure serves as a great opportunity for our students to expand their horizons and develop a greater understanding of the diverse world around them. The interactions with people from various walks of life contribute to personal growth, giving a sense of openness and acceptance, Coles said.”

Coles believes that this conference can be used to better the Malvern community. It really encouraged students to be engaged and curious in group discussions. 

“This experience becomes a gift of stories and insights that our students can bring back to the Malvern community. Sharing their experience will not only enrich the local narrative but also serve as a catalyst for maintaining high interest among students. It’s a unique way to keep the community engaged, creating curiosity and a continuous thirst for knowledge among our students, Coles said.”

Mr. Woo, an Upper School Spanish Teacher, weighed in on student empowerment and how it can benefit a place like Malvern. He mentioned how students can feel motivated to share their perspectives.


“It’s beneficial for students because [they] get to find their voice. [It’s especially helpful for] students who may not have felt empowered to speak about their experiences while at Malvern. They felt empowered to speak while they were there…We all come from different backgrounds. I even had a student who spoke about that, who said that he felt empowered to speak about his issues since he found people like himself. Because of that empowerment, it encouraged them to speak about their own experiences,” Woo said.


Woo spoke about this memorable experience as well as several takeaways he took from the conference. He particularly explored the benefits of growing closer to each other in the Malvern community. 


“The conference made me think about the question ‘how,’ instead of ‘why.’ It just really kickstarted a lot of questions in my head. How can we enrich the student experience here? Mr. Coles and I spoke a lot. Through the conference, [we] grew closer together as colleagues, and we are able to speak about a bunch of different issues, too. I also got to know some of the students that went. It’s not just a conference that I took things away from, but it was a relationship-building experience as well, ” Woo said.


PJ Holmes, a Junior at Malvern, explained how his eyes were opened after returning from St. Louis and how he would use these skills to better the community. 


“It definitely did open my eyes about coming back to Malvern and showing what it’s like to be able to just make friends. I know a lot of people here can make friends easily but actually show us how to make friends with people that are maybe not from the same state as you or not have the same beliefs as you. So, making friends and connections and building good relationships with others.” Holmes said.


The trip also included lots of fun activities for the students. The students and their chaperones ate all of their meals together, which really helped the brotherhood aspect of the trip. 


“I say definitely spending time with the guys that are with everybody that came from here from Malvern, definitely spending time with them. It was really fun. We all got dinner and lunch and all that stuff it just hang out and get to know each other and it was pretty fun because now I’m closer with the guys that I went with,” Holmes said.

Students and teachers both benefited from this conference. This multiracial gathering presents so many possibilities for improvement in our community. Coles said, “These experiences outside our bubble contribute to the development of our students and play a pivotal role in creating a more globally aware and connected Malvern community.”

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