For the third annual Awareness Day at Avenues, students were given the opportunity to deeply examine issues of class and privilege with honesty and respect. Among the day’s activities were such workshops as “The Politics of Economic Privilege” and “Hospital Bill$: The Intersection of Class and Health” that encouraged students to let down their guards and participate meaningfully in discussions with each other.
AnaMaria Correa delivers her keynote.
The day is student-run and designed, reflecting a true collaboration between teachers and students in which both plan and co-facilitate discussions. The Avenues band opened the event and AnaMaria Correa, Avenues’ new diversity and engagement director, was invited to give the keynote address. “Awareness is power and you are part of the movement, a quiet revolution,” she told the audience. Her spoken-word and multimedia presentation set the tone for the whole day.
“How could we improve class dynamics at Avenues?” asks the question on the board.
At the end of class, students outlined action items.
During “Our Side of the Divide: How We See Economic Privilege at Avenues,” students discussed – first in small groups, then as a class – everything from the cost of eating lunch outside of school to the implications of labeling certain businesses or neighborhoods “sketchy.” One student decried the “assumption of shared experiences,” reminding her peers that not everyone has the $90 to pay for applications to certain colleges, let alone the ability to afford tuition.
Towards the end of workshop, students outlined action items, chief among them to remain mindful that not everyone has access to the same resources.
Upper grades history teacher Jenna Ray facilitates discussion with students during “The Intersection of Economic Privilege and Gender.”
“The Intersection of Economic Privilege and Gender” yielded another lively discussion, with the teens gamely tackling issues in a mature and respectful manner. “Homeless women often have to make their own hygiene products,” one student pointed out as they looked into how gender might affect a person’s cost of living in different situations. She was referencing a scene from The Homestretch, a documentary that the students watched earlier in the day, which follows the lives of three homeless teens. It was clear that the film had made an impact; indeed, several of the students – boys as well as girls – vowed to carry feminine hygiene products with them to give away after having watched the documentary.
In the Harkness discussions, a student-centered and driven approach used in Avenues classrooms, the students touched upon a variety of topics during the workshop, including how gender dynamics affect class participation. Throughout the workshop, the students intently listened to perspectives different from their own.
Working in groups, students review a handout in one of the workshops.
Decompressing in between workshops.
At the end of the day, all of the upper grades students and faculty assembled to reflect and talk about next steps. “One of the most important things we can do is not forget about today,” one student told the others. This point – that staying mindful of the lessons learned during Awareness Day was one of the most profound actions they could take – was echoed by several of the students. “After we open this door, we don’t close it.”
Listening to a panel discussion featuring students who’d attended the NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference.