Pollyanna Conference

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Harvard-Westlake School is excited to host its seventh annual Pollyanna Conference!  We hope you will join us in person as a participant. As always, the day promises to be exciting and informative.  We are excited to be back together on the middle school campus.   

Our theme for 2023 is "Addressing Hate with Intention: Thoughtfully Combatting Attempts to Divide." We are thrilled to announce that Natosha Reid Rice will serve as our keynote speaker this year. Ms. Rice is passionate about providing a voice to the voiceless and opportunities to communities that have been historically disadvantaged. She is a frequent speaker and facilitator for community/civic organizations, churches, colleges and corporate events on topics such as the intersection of faith and justice, race and gender justice, leadership development and community empowerment. Natosha currently serves on the boards of the global Harvard Alumni Association as an Elected Director, the Atlanta Community Foodbank, the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, and Invest Atlanta’s Atlanta Emerging Markets, Inc. In recent times we have seen a stark rise in targeted acts of hate against groups both outside and inside our school communities. These instances tear at the connective tissue that we work diligently to build. To that end, this year we will complement the keynote address with a fireside chat conversation so that we can engage multiple perspectives. We are delighted that Dr. Saba Soomekh, Ph.D. will join us to have a conversation with Ms. Rice following her remarks. Dr. Soomekh is the Director of Training and Education for the American Jewish Committee (AJC). She is a scholar focusing her research on World Religions, Women and Religion, intersectionality and its impact on the Jewish community. In the summer of 2019, Dr. Soomekh was a Scholar-in-Residence at Oxford University with the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy. We will dedicate our time during the conference to examine and discuss proven strategies to fortify our sense of connection and customize them to fit the unique demands of our institutions.

The mission of Pollyanna is to create a platform "where groups of people can explore together diversity, inclusion, and equity and share ideas, experiences and knowledge in order to become change agents in their immediate communities. The conference model is a dynamic, focused and interactive program that provides guidance and training for community leaders. The goal is to improve inclusion within communities and the understanding that racial, socioeconomic, religious and sexual diversity enhances all elements of the community."

Pollyanna is structured a bit differently than other conferences. Each school will be represented as a School POD – with approximately 15 individuals who play a role in advancing the diversity discussion at your school. We ask that you send two members from each of the following constituent groups, if possible: head of school, administrators, alumni, diversity coordinators, faculty, parents, students (8th through 12th grade), and trustees. We will ask for a list of your POD members in early September 2023.

New this year, we are excited to add a more focused elementary school component! We have heard feedback, and convened a committee of elementary practitioners to devise ways to make the day valuable for their schools. The schedule has been adjusted so that there will be intentional time for elementary school PODs to hear from students currently in 6th to 8th grade, insights which may be more immediately applicable to those in K-6 or K-8 communities.


The morning will begin with brief opening remarks and a special keynote speaker. The balance of the morning will be dedicated to workshops broken down by constituent groups, each individually facilitated. After a break for lunch, there will be a dynamic student presentation. This year we will feature a breakout session that will speak specifically to the experience of elementary/middle school students in addition to our traditional high school panel. Each school will then reunite with its members for afternoon workshops, which will focus on discussions of next steps for each school. The day will end with a closing share-out session.


Harvard-Westlake Middle School, 700 North Faring Road, Los Angeles, 90077



If you are interested in being placed on the waitlist should a spot become available, please email Dr. Jon Carroll at jcarroll@hw.com.  The conference will accommodate the first 25 schools that register. The cost for each School POD to attend is $1,600 before June 30, 2023 and $1,900 after July 1, 2023. Please be in touch if the cost is prohibitive for your school. Once you have completed the short registration form and submitted your credit card payment, you will receive an email confirming your registration.

For additional information, please email jjones@hw.com.