Diversity, inclusion the focus of conference at Lyons Township South Campus

Dr. Ngozi Ezike to be keynote speaker at event

A community forum set for this weekend in Western Springs will shine the spotlight on diversity and inclusion, and event coordinators can’t wait.

“We tend to fear things we don’t understand or aren’t familiar with,” said Cathy Pierson, operations director for The LeaderShop, a La Grange nonprofit aimed at empowering youth to be community-minded individuals through diverse programs. “The more we learn, understand and accept the perspective of others and where they might be coming from, the more cohesive our community becomes.”

That’s exactly the goal for this year’s third annual Building Inclusive Community Conference, set for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Lyons Township High School’s South Campus, 4900 Willow Springs Road, Western Springs.

Teens and adults are invited to attend the event, which will feature workshops presented by community members and organizations on a broad spectrum of topics, including gender diversity, navigating the school system, deconstructing sociopolitical dynamics in interpersonal relationships, racial healing, the gender wage gap and Potawatomi tradition in the New Millenium, among others.

Additionally, during a free pizza lunch, local students will facilitate a discussion of how an inclusive community looks, feels and sounds.

The keynote speaker for this year’s event is Dr. Ngozi Ezike, CEO and president of the Sinai Chicago Hospital System and former director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. Ezike, the first Black woman to lead Sinai Chicago in the system’s 103-year history, navigated the state through the most difficult waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think Dr. Ezike will prove to be an impressive keynote speaker and we have a great line up of workshops to choose from,” Pierson said. “We hope people will explore the many options to learn and grow through attending the conference.”

The mission of this year’s event is to encourage a welcoming culture in the community by developing understanding and empathy through learning about other people’s stories and identities.

“All teens and adults who want to learn something about others who may come from a different background or experience should attend,” Pierson said. “Everyone’s journey in life is different, and as we become more familiar with how we all differ, I believe we also become more aware of how much more we are alike.”

Since the inaugural conference in 2021, event attendance has continued to grow.

“With the pandemic waning, we’re looking forward to even more people joining us this year,” Pierson said.

Advanced registration for Saturday’s event is encouraged. To register or get more information on the various workshops, visit: tinyurl.com/5da86zsz.