Edward Simon Cruz
During the month of February, the students and faculty of High School North and High School South worked to construct presentations, interactive activities, and guest speaker panels to address various subjects surrounding Black history and identity. These events aimed to create a comfortable environment for racial issues to be discussed while recognizing and amplifying the voices and experiences of different members of the Black community.
Some events were organized for students in specific grade levels or courses, while other events — such as an assembly with speaker and author Justin Michael Williams and a day-long series of sessions on February 25 — were designed for the whole school. The Black Student Unions at both North and South organized additional events outside of school, along with the African American Parent Support Group. Teachers, administrators, and students alike from both High School North and High School South had communicated with one another as well as outside speakers to organize these events.
Students lent their voices and input into the organization of these events, meeting with staff members and guest speakers to determine what messages they sought to spread. As administrators cooperated with these students and the groups with which they are associated, they realized the value in amplifying student voices for the school to see. “When we have students who are interested and willing to take on the responsibility, we want to make sure that we can elevate their voices and their interests so that we can share their experience with as many students as possible,” said North assistant principal Jessica Cincotta.
Black History Month is a nationally recognized, important period of time both historically and in the present. The hope is that at WW-P, students will use this time as an opportunity to delve closer into identifying who they are to establish important future relationships, while staff members can use the information that they learn to find new ways to support their students in the classroom.
“These events are extremely important. It’s not every day that you learn about sororities and fraternities, redlining, and HBCUs in WW-P,” said Taylor Alphonso, secretary of the Shades Club, the Black Student Union at High School North. Students need to recognize these occurrences in order to remain informed about current events as well as things they can do when pursuing their careers. Doing so will highlight the importance of inclusivity and productivity within the whole society along with our township.
In regards to Black History Month, staff members and students alike acknowledge the need to continue amplifying not only Black voices but also the voices and experiences of other groups that may be underrepresented, including women, Hispanic people, and members of the LGBTQ community. Administrators and members of the community like Rosalyn Washington, the advisor for the Shades Club, have engaged in conversations about ways to plan events like these so that they can provide more opportunities for students to share and listen to a wide array of experiences and perspectives.
“We have a lot of work to do, and it’s been very nice to start to see the conversation come up again and again and again,” said Cincotta. “We are changing systems within the district, but we’re also working on: What are our beliefs, and what of those beliefs can we work to change so that we can really honor all the people who come into our building? And so it’s an exciting time to be a part of WW-P. And we still have a long way to go, but we’re working.”