Students Celebrate Diversity at 2018 Culture Con

By Elizabeth Johns, Assistant Editor-in-Chief

Race. Religion. Sexual orientation. Mental health. Political stance.

These are just some of the heavy topics that juniors discussed during Culture Con on April 19.

The seminar featured 15-20 speakers, notably Special Olympics award-winner Loretta Claiborne, philanthropist and mental health advocate Drew Bregman, and many more.

Matthew Amberman, the social studies department head, was the one who originally came up with the idea and put it together.

“I had always wanted a social studies version of the STEM Summit, and I could never really put it together. When Mr. Warren started teaching here and along with Mr. Shervington, [they] helped create Aevidum, and at a lot of conferences they were attending, they were able to meet some interesting people. They brought a new spin to my thought of having a social studies STEM Summit beyond just religions and foods. They actually brought a lot of diversity to it. It was really them bringing all the contacts with the people that allowed us to have Culture Con,” said Amberman.

Amberman created Culture Con because he wanted to teach empathy to his students and expose them to diverse people they might not meet everyday.

“We just wanted people to be able to empathize with their fellow man,” said Amberman.“Whether it’s learning disabilities and learning challenges exhibited by Loretta Claiborne or Drew Bergman’s story about how he, being in a picture perfect family or at least what we thought was the picture perfect family, struggled with suicidal thoughts because of the societal pressures and family pressures placed upon him.”

Amberman appreciates how students are exposed to ideas they haven’t yet encountered.

“We have the different session, so people can meet people who are perhaps transgender, or homosexual, or people who know a lot about learning disabilities, or mental health problems. [They can] meet a Jewish person, meet a Christian person, meet a Hindu person. That allows us to make a human connection, [which] allows us to create empathy, [which] allows us to treat our fellow man a little better, “ said Amberman.

Junior Emily Ditt explains why she liked the seminar.

“I learned a lot about the differences of other people. I tried my best to go to the different seminars that I normally wouldn’t go to, so I could have a better understanding of other people,” said Ditt.

Amberman drew from his personal experience while curating Culture Con.

“…I was exposed to a lot of diverse people in college, but with a little age and wisdom on my side, now, meeting these people versus…when I was a late teenager, I think it gives me a lot of perspective as a husband, a father, a community member, [and] a leader in our school. I think it truly focuses me on what I really believe, about treating your fellow man, no matter what walk of life they come from or what their beliefs are, as equal humans,” said Amberman.

Junior Trevor Leuba learned from Culture Con.

“I think this experience has given me a greater outlook of everyday people. I’ve learned to appreciate that everyone has a different story, and everyone has something different that makes them special. I think I’ve gained a greater appreciation for that,” said Leuba.

Amberman hopes to teach students life is not necessarily about surpassing societal expectations.

“I think a lot of times in life we always want to be better than somebody else. It’s not about being better than somebody else, it’s about living the best life you can live, and helping our your fellow man however you can,” said Amberman.