DEI Student Group Plans Assembly

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) committee formed to amplify student voices

FIONA SAMUELSON

“I want students to walk out of the assembly with a new perspective. It’s important for students to step away with a newfound understanding of their peers. I hope they can appreciate the raw honesty between students,” said student DEI committee member and senior Mariah Riley.

Student DEI group members Mariah Riley and Nishtha Viyulie provide direction for the group.

ELHS will hold a student-led assembly Jan. 11 where students of color will share personal stories with Riley’s above-mentioned goal in mind.

Subject to change, the 45-minute assembly will be held in the North Gym and presented in two waves in accordance with capacity regulations set by Ledge Light Health District. Advisory discussions will precede and follow the gathering.

Riley and junior Tori Buzzelli approached Mr. Kydd with frustrations early this school year about changing school culture. Continued conversations led to the committee’s creation.

“Students are fed up. There have been many racist incidents. This year’s just happened to be the one to spark some change,” Riley said. The group that started with Buzzelli and Riley has now expanded to about 12. Assistant principal Julie Shvetz joined Mr. Kydd to listen to student ideas and assist students with the planning of their assembly. The group has met Thursdays since October.

“Our goal is to stop ignorance and spread awareness,” sophomore and student DEI committee member Kai Ritz said.

DEI committee member Jamie Kim thinks that sharing personal stories and discussing how we can better our community will help students understand and recognize the problem within our school.

DEI Student Group advisors help prepare for assembly in January.

Students hope sharing their own stories through speeches directly to other students, and the staff responsible for their care, will help everyone to reflect and empathize.

“We need kindness to take over. We need people standing up for one another, student to student,” assistant principal Mr. Kydd said. Speakers at the assembly aren’t from outside organizations or administration, they are classmates, teammates, and friends. They are ELHS students who have been harmed by racism and wish to share their stories.

“Students speaking of their experiences, which mimic experiences of racism over our country’s history, is the best way to see how what we say and do impacts our neighbors,’’ history teacher and DEI committee contributor Matthew LaConti said.

Conveying the significance of these experiences in connection to larger issues of racism, ignorance, and discrimination will be a main focus of the assembly.

Understanding and acknowledging how attending ELHS has affected the speakers as people of color is another takeaway of the assembly. A vital component of continuing the conversation is the discussion planned for advisory, which will provide a safe space for open dialogue to address ignorance and continue to improve the school’s climate.

“Making long lasting change happens locally; good things take time,” Mr. LaConti said.

Mr. Kydd advises all in attendance to acknowledge the sensitivity of the event and respect the students’ bravery in speaking to the entire school.

“We want this to be a positive healing experience for the school,” Mr. Kydd said.

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