Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Building a Community of Caring at Pollard

Beginning in this school year the School Committee is recognizing students who embody the spirit of the district's core values:  Scholarship, Community, Citizenship, and Personal Growth.  In November, two Needham High School students, seniors Isabel Barnet and Oliver Hirshland, were recognized for their scholarship.

This month the School Committee acknowledged the brave efforts of seven Pollard Middle School students who bonded together to organize a “think in” in response to recent racist and homophobic graffiti found in a bathroom at the school. Bailey Chandler, Ari Anthony, Jeniyah Joseph, Ida Miles, Daniela Cajigas, Lia Santiago, and Tatiyana Dietz were all recognized and presented with a certificate for modeling the district’s core value of Community.

Pollard students Bailey, Ari, Jeniyah, Ida, Daniela, Lia, and Tatiyana with Principal Tamatha Bibbo, METCO Director Joanne Allen-Willoughby, METCO staff Leslie Smart, and Superintendent Dan Gutekanst

These students initiated and organized an event to help the middle school community heal and find a path forward to respectful dialogue and conversation. The girls bravely stood before their classmates and shared their fears, their feelings, and their hopes for the future.  Not only did they share about their personal experiences, they invited others to do so in a powerful and productive way.  They invited all middle school students to meet in the school cafeteria to come together, share their stories and make t-shirts to spread positive messages in place of hate. Together this small group of young women took a painful event and turned it into a ray of light and hope for the entire community.

One of the girls stood before an auditorium of middle school students and shared:  “We want to thank the staff and administration for how they handled this.  We understand that this school has made tremendous efforts to make everyone here feel welcome. Hate is taught. We are not born looking down on another’s differences.  Even though we’re all surprised and some of us are hurt by these negative comments, our voices together overpower just one. We’re all human. We’re all equal.  Fear and ignorance is nothing compared to the love and strength all of us have within us.”

Congratulations to Bailey, Ari, Jeniyah, Ida, Daniela, Lia, and Tatiyana for demonstrating courage and a commitment to a caring community!

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