A Glimpse of Senior Student Leadership at Lab
The graduating class of 2023 were merely freshmen when the pandemic disrupted their Lab education and experience. They have undergone the trials and tribulations of virtual learning and navigated the new normal of returning to in-person learning. Nonetheless, amongst other extracurricular activities, this Maroon class has a wide variety of student leaders that have been involved in sports, clubs, special interest groups, community service and civic engagement organizations. In commemoration of Lab’s mission statement, we feature only a few of this year's activities that provide a glimpse of the type of students who will soon leave Lab to positively impact our society.
Black Student Activism at Annual MLK Assembly
Earlier this year at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Assembly hosted by the U-High BSA on Thursday, January 12, Camille Bryant and Michael Ewing, co-presidents of BSA, diverged from the traditional MLK-related theme and introduced a different one: Black is… Unlike past years, this year's presentation focused on the discrimination students experienced within the Lab community, according to U-High Midway. Bryant and Ewing described how students of color, especially Black students, continue to feel unwelcome at school. After their speeches, BSA and other identity-based groups walked out of the auditorium.
To foster ongoing civic activism and to continue the message shared at the MLK Assembly, on February 1—the first day of Black History Month—BSA displayed dozens of different posters on students lockers that featured quotes from students and prominent figures in the Black community, according to Midway.
We continue the idea that Black is not a monolith and that we all have different experiences and different perspectives on what it means to be Black, Bryant told the Midway on February 2. I feel like it's also good that we have that representation because it also brought in the conversations, to not just [focus] on Blackness and Black culture, but also to [focus] other people.
Ewing also emphasized the importance of amplifying Black voices and hearing members of the Black community, according to the Midway. During their time as BSA co-presidents, Ewing and Bryant say, "[Lab] prepared [them] to always see and challenge the systematic issues embedded into institutions, never wait around for others to stand up for justice, and to make allies with those willing to do the same.
On Thursday, April 13, Lab’s JSA hosted the Holocaust Remembrance Assembly in the Gordon Parks Arts Hall Griffin Auditorium. This important assembly was in commemoration of Yom HaShoah, the Jewish memorial day for the Shoah (the Hebrew word for “catastrophe,” referring to the Holocaust), which, this year, began the evening of Monday, April 17 and ended the evening of Tuesday, April 18. The assembly was the first in-person event in four years and explored the theme: The Power of Words. This year’s assembly featured an opening and closing speech, a candle-lighting ceremony, a performance by Bel Canto, and guest speaker, Susan Meschel, who is a Holocaust survivor.
During the closing remarks, Charlie Benton, co-president of JSA, spoke passionately about how the Jewish community felt excluded from the conversations in U-High’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, according to Midway. “So here’s what we’re asking you, for the absolute bare minimum: to see us as a community,” Benton said during his remarks.
The Holocaust Remembrance Assembly is held every two years, according to the Midway, and it was the first time that students participated in student and faculty–run workshops afterwards.
I thought that having that intimate, classroom-size discussion with a student or faculty who has actively chosen to do this will be impactful, Benton told Midway on March 20, “I’m hoping that people can share some pretty impactful feelings.
On Friday, April 14, the fifth annual BRAVE(Becoming Racially Aware and Valuing Ethnicity) conference was held at Lab’s Historic Campus for students in Grades 6–12. The conference is designed to facilitate conversations on discrimination and unity within our schools, our community, and our society. According to the conference's website, by delving into cultural and ethnic issues and providing a safe place for open discussion, BRAVE specifically calls attention to the portion of Lab's mission that lists, honoring diversity’ as a value of the School.
Kavan Puri, co-president of U-High's BRAVE conference board, along with other members were involved in putting on this year's conference. We think that the benefit that BRAVE has is that everyone that there wants to be there, and they really dedicate themselves to these conversations, Puri told the Midway on March 28. It's a place to just be vulnerable, and share your experiences.
Students were able to engage in open discussions, in core and choice workshops, and hear from guest speakers that included: Jahmal Cole, Kiku Hibino, Mary Aregoni, Tobias Spears, and Michal Muhammad. Students also watched unique performances centered around the theme: Uniting Through Movement.
I was always inspired by BRAVE, specifically as a great way for students to act on John Dewey's vision for Lab of learning through doing and honoring diversity, Puri, who has been involved in planning four of the past five conferences, says. This experience was incredibly important to me, as I got the opportunity to lead my peers in a space near to my identity as an Indian-American student. I look forward to continuing my efforts in the DEI space and as a leader into my college years and down the line in the workforce.
Fermi Boonstra is the 2022–2023 All-school President. On May 5, 2022, Boonstra told the Midway,"There are things that a leader can do to make a community feel more bonded. I think, as a leader, it's important to be an example for students...You learn to like what people see and what they receive from your actions. Through my years, I’ve figured out what is good and what's bad.
Boonstra's campaign promises included more Lab spirit, curriculum feedback to faculty, and student mental health. In a September 16, 2022 interview, Boonstra told Midway that she went to the handbook committee and tried to get the mental health days rephrased, or at least separated, so that the policy was clear to students to have more leniency with mental health days.
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