“The class wanted to continue our discussion of the civil rights movement beyond the classroom,” explains Middle School English teacher Betsy Lamitina. “Cate Sindler, then a sixth grader, came to me to talk about ways we could educate the Middle School and also make an impact on issues of diversity and racial justice.”
“We discuss how the club is an extension of the Department of Equity and Inclusion and how students could be agents of change,” says Lamitina.
Members spearhead activities that include the entire Middle School: from “I will” statements posted on a bulletin board suggesting ways to foster inclusion (I will stand up for someone being bullied”; “I will sit with someone in the lunchroom who is sitting alone”; “I will hold the door for anyone behind me”) to activities like Cross the Line, where students step over a line in response to statements with which they agree, and learn there are others like them.
The club also sponsors special events like December’s Heritage Advisory Luncheon, featuring foods important to the students’ cultures. From babka to samosas, more than 40 international dishes were provided by students and shared with their advisory groups.
Another hit: Black History Month, highlighting heroes like Medgar Evers and the history of social dance within African American/Black culture, the latter culminating in a rousing Middle-School-wide performance of the Whip and Nae Nae. The club also created “Showtime at the Apollo – Education Style,” modeled after the historic live talent competition at the Apollo Theater in New York City with student acts that included speeches, poetry, singing, and jazz.
“Overall, there seems to be a greater awareness of identities in the Middle School,” observes Lamitina. “Students have been more willing to actively participate in discussions around race and social justice and are also more willing to share who they are with others.”
Future plans for the club include Spanish Heritage Month, a diversity conference, and producing a video about diversity: what it feels and looks like at WT, and why it’s important. And, notes Woodruff, “Our future will go wherever else students’ interests and identities lead us.”