At the high school, administration has recently taken initiatives to recognize the difficulties minority students face. “As administrators, it’s our job to make sure that every student in the school is supported, is comfortable, and feels as if they belong,” said Mr. Holownia.
“The first thing was awareness,” said Mr. Pugliese. “No one should feel uncomfortable for being who they are and it’s something that is our responsibility as an administration and as educators to try and do everything we can to fix that.” While discussing administration’s first steps—the “Acceptance and Appreciation Friday” videos—Mr. Pugliese said, “By doing this every Friday, we’re recognizing that it’s a focus, and a focus requires time, it requires energy, it requires constantly making sure that this is moving us forward, and I think that it is.”
These videos, touching on a broad range of subjects from body positivity to discrimination, seek to spark productive conversations and create a better school environment. Additionally, Mr. Holownia emphasized the importance of student feedback.
A survey sent out to the student body regarding these “Acceptance and Appreciation Fridays,” received lukewarm responses. When asked her opinion, Madison Zelin said, “I think they’re good attempts, just holding little to no impact on students unfortunately, especially outside of school and on social media.”
Still, some believe that these videos are an important step in the process of creating a more inclusive school atmosphere. “I feel that these attempts were valid and needed in this school because of the small amount of diversity in our school district,” Jake Field responded. Indeed, one student noted how the videos did make them think about how other people live.
It’s worth noting that when asked if the videos shown in Home Base have made an impact on the people around them, none of the participants in the survey answered “yes;” instead, about 43% answered “maybe,” while 57% answered “no.” [See image below.]
Administration says this will be the first step of many towards fostering an atmosphere of inclusion and diversity. In a survey question about additional steps they believed the school could take, the majority of respondents were keen to share their opinions. Several suggested guest speakers and assemblies, while Jake Field brought up the potential of diversity-centered events at which students could share and interact with other cultures.
According to Yusra Rashidzada, “Finding friends who are also minorities definitely helped me through high school. And we can relate to each other on topics like racism and being discriminated against.” If you’re feeling isolated and are looking for a safe place or a diverse club with members whom you may relate to, consider joining an extracurricular activity where diversity and inclusion are a focus of the club. Some suggestions include, but are not limited to:
Cymbals | Global Awareness Club | Student Advisory | Journalism Club | GSA