Student Author: Leeah Han
After growing up in a neighborhood that lacked and dismissed the importance of diversity, I had normalized the feeling of being out of place. I hyper-fixated on my Chinese American identity and felt misunderstood and insignificant in my middle school community. However, Miss Porter’s School — and its various programs that encourage diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and student activism — has pushed me to embrace and learn how to love every aspect of my identity. Today, I am the proud leader of two identity-based affinity groups on campus, the two-year representative of the Office of Equity and Inclusion, a two-year attendee of the Student Diversity Leadership Conference, and the student Head of Diversity for the 2023-2024 school year.
But let’s go back in time to where all of this started: the ChangeMaker’s Institute, a program that showed me just how much I loved engaging in activism and DEI work. In January of my freshman year, I received an email about a new program that had just started: the ChangeMaker’s Institute. I remember emailing my advisor about the institute, which at the time had an age requirement of 15-18 years old. I was 14 at the time and wasn’t sure if I’d be allowed to apply for the program. Luckily, an exception was made and I was accepted into the institute.
Right off the bat, I noticed many aspects of the course that surprised me. First, it was completely different from anything I had expected. Though it felt foreign at first to begin classes with meditation sessions and reflective conversations with my peers, I slowly learned to appreciate this style of learning that felt more natural and empathetic than what I had previously experienced. Through the ChangeMaker’s Institute, I was pushed out of my comfort zone and challenged to follow my true interests. I was able to speak with leaders from a variety of fields ranging from education to law, and, by doing so, I learned how to ask questions with confidence. The most valuable part of my experience, however, was the connections I made with students, facilitators, and professionals in the social impact field.
“Through the ChangeMaker’s Institute, I was pushed out of my comfort zone and challenged to follow my true interests.”
Through the ChangeMaker’s Institute, I’ve had the opportunity to access networks, opportunities and internships, and I have had the opportunity to work with influential and well-networked women. Over the years, as the ChangeMaker’s Institute has shown up in my life time and time again, I have been able to build strong relationships with various adults affiliated with the program. My favorite connection that I’ve made, however, is with the lead facilitator of the institute: Cat Lindroth ’04. Cat and I have stayed connected over the years— running ideas past each other, having conversations about social impact and the work I was doing within my community at school, writing and reading poetry, starting projects together, and reflecting on the successes and areas that could use improvement in the institute. I value the connection that I have with Cat, and I am so grateful for the ChangeMaker’s Institute for introducing her into my life.
I can confidently say that the ChangeMaker’s Institute is a program that, if you let it, will show up and remain relevant in your life, especially after it ends. I believe my past experiences in the ChangeMaker’s Institute are largely what have pushed me to arrive at and continue on from this point in my educational and changemaking journey, and I aim to continue learning from the institute as it hopefully remains present throughout my future as well.