By: Bryan Geary
On April 9, Tilton School kicked off its new Young Women’s+ Leadership Program (YWLP) with an inaugural Leadership Summit. The event, open to current and recently accepted students, featured an incredible lineup of speakers including Keynote Speaker Brooklyn Raney, author of One Trusted Adult, Canadian Olympic Softball player Joey Lye, and Tilton alumnae AeLeiyah DeSimas ’12 and Gabrielle Hunter ’16, among others. The summit aimed to launch YWLP and its mission of assisting students in cultivating the skills, knowledge, character, and global citizenship necessary to be a successful and equitable leader in today’s world.
Recently, we had the chance to catch up with DeSimas to ask about returning to campus for the experience!
The Compass: For people who weren’t able to attend, can you describe your program and why you were excited to be a part of the summit?
AeLeiyah DeSimas: My session was activism — how to find your voice to use it. And I was really intrigued to do this session partially because when I was at Tilton, activism was not something that was in my wheelhouse, even understanding the definition of the word. I wanted to take a moment and show these students, these young adults, that they have agency and that their actions can lead to positive change in the world.
TC: How do you think the students reacted to your message?
AD: There were some nerves, but it was nice to give them that space. I actually got a really beautiful email from an international student about how it allowed her to have a space to use her voice, where everyone could be respected regardless of how well they speak English. And that was definitely a goal of mine — wanting to make sure that the students felt respected and seen.
TC: Why was it important for you to make the trip to Tilton for this event?
AD: In addition to my role as the Equity and Inclusion Coordinator at a school [in California], I also run a consulting firm on the side. I spend a lot of time working with schools about how to enact diversity, equity, and inclusion curriculums; anti-bias and anti-racist curriculums, and just how to enact institutional change in these areas. But it brought so much joy to be at Tilton. I was in their seats. I remember being in freshman seminar and to have that moment with them to say, “You have the chance in the world to do anything you want to do, but you have to decide what it is. So, let’s talk about it. What do you really want to do? Who do you really want to be?” It was so nice to hear what they had to say.
TC: Did you ever envision yourself back at Tilton giving this presentation?
AD: Absolutely not! I think I even said in my session, “I would’ve never thought I’d be here giving a talk on activism.” I was the least in-tune with my identity human being ever when I was at Tilton. I think part of that was my identity of being a student-athlete and needing to find my path and not only be defined by that. And that’s why YWLP is so important; it opens up opportunities for students to be able to claim more pieces of their identity, more pieces of who they are, and to recognize their talents.
TC: What are your hopes for YWLP going forward?
AD: I hope that it expands. I hope that we do a men’s summit next year. I hope we do a black, indigenous,
and people of color summit for BIPOC students. I hope there’s an international summit. I hope this serves as an affinity space for different demographics and different populations so they can be seen and feel valued.