Social Justice Starts Here

Social Justice Roundtable of WBHS

Social Justice Starts Here

On Wednesday, March 18th, student representatives from West Bloomfield High School’s Dream Dialogue, the Muslim Student Association (MSA), the African American Awareness (AAA) Club, Be The Change, Upstanders, Student Leadership, International Club, and the Gay-Straight Alliance Club gathered in the Long Distance Learning Lab at West Bloomfield High School to have a Social Justice roundtable. The meeting was organized by teachers Stephen Toy and Sondra Hoffman, however many other teachers joined as well, including Marlowe B’sheart, Ashleigh Ruggero, Jenifer Rosenwasser, and student teacher Allison Szatkiewicz.

To begin the meeting, each attendant introduced themselves and the club they were representing. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss each group and their involvement in advocating social justice within their clubs , within the school and community as a whole. The West Bloomfield School District includes Social Justice as an instructional frame.  The Social Justice Committee’s mission is to “cultivate an environment of social justice that moves us from judgement to compassion through the education and nurturing of our students, staff and community to ensure that the uniqueness of each individual is embraced.”

To continue the meeting, each representative spoke about what their group was doing to create unity within the school and how they show recognition for all the different identities that are carried within everyone. Dream Dialogue began by saying that their club is meant to bring together people and create a safe space to learn about different cultures and ethnicities without the weight of stereotypes clouding people’s minds. Their club takes monthly trips to listen to speakers with different stories and backgrounds and then they later debrief with other schools and clubs to discuss what they have learned.

Next, a student representative from MSA spoke about how their club meets every Friday, where they have religious services open to all. MSA is involved in community service around West Bloomfield and is another safe environment for students.

International Club is another group whose main goal is to raise awareness about other cultures. Every meeting, a student creates a presentation about a culture and brings in homemade food specific to that culture that everyone can taste.

AAA is a forum style club where students discuss current events and social issues and how those are affecting the black community. They often have collaborative meetings with other groups, such as a Mercy High School club.

The next club to speak was Be The Change “If I could describe Be The Change in one word it would be ‘acceptance’” says junior Mario Kakos. The goal of this club is to break cliques and create a positive environment within the school. In order to achieve this, Be The Change has hosted several campaigns. One of them was “Random Act of Kindness Day”, held at the beginning of the year, where they gave people compliments on little notes with a piece of candy attached. Be The Change strives to promote the beauty in every person and to show everyone that they are cared about.

Another large club that advocates for social justice is Upstanders. Rather than targeting bullies and victims of bullying, Upstanders targets the bystander and teaches people to stand up when injustice or bullying happens–to become Upstanders instead of bystanders.  Advisor Marlowe B’sheart says, “The overall goal of Upstanders is to empower students to create acceptance and connection at WBHS–to continue building a community where all students feel valued and seen.”  This club is very large and the meetings consist of learning a lot about how to raise awareness about being an upstander, and then creating an action plan to share their learning with the rest of the school.  Action plans will be presented the week of April 6th–Upstander Week.

Student Leadership also gave their input. As a group who plans many of the events at the high school, their mission is to connect to as many students as possible. The students in leadership are pushed to prioritize other students before themselves. Ashleigh Ruggero, the Student Leadership supervisor said that, “creating a culture that is centered around a certain purpose can really help in breaking barriers.”

Lastly, a representative from the GSA spoke.  Although its original name is Gay-Straight Alliance, Gender Sexuality Alliance is the preferred name. It is a place where people who understand each other can come together and support one another. This year, the GSA is becoming more active and involved in the school. One of their ways of raising awareness is The Day of Silence, where people will take vows of silence for one day to symbolically represent the silence in which some members of the LGBT community live–those for whom coming out can be unsafe. This club is another safe space that really feels like home for students.

The meeting went on with discussing what kind of social discrimination has happened within the school, why it was happening, and what they could do to change it.The roundtable decided that to stop these generalizations, education is needed for people become more accepting. In order for this to happen, it is important for clubs to visit other clubs and learn about each other’s purposes. It is also important that people think for themselves and call people out if they are saying something incorrect, inappropriate or damaging. The group concluded the meeting by deciding to reconvene because they felt like they have much more to talk about. Clubs like this help not only the school, but also the world.