By Killian Lynch
More than ever before, our school and our country have taken a closer look at the blatant and the discreet discrimination around us. Our school’s passion surrounding this issue manifested into bringing the program known as Breaking Down the Walls to our school. As you may know, this program is designed to change the perspective students may have about each other. Which sounds wonderful, but for those of you who didn’t get to attend, how exactly did it attempt to do so?
Around 300 students and teachers were able to participate in what I’ll now refer to as BDTW. This group included essentially people of all walks of life in Forest Grove High School. People of all races, genders, sexualities and statuses congregated in the gym each day to play games, engage in serious discussion, and eventually learn new and eye-opening facts about their peers.
These activities included – aside from your average ice breakers – games designed to make everyone in the room comfortable with each other. Some were silly in the best way, others were inspiring. The most impactful activity was called ‘Cross the Line”. It consisted of everyone in the gym standing on either side of the basketball court, facing each other. The speaker from Breaking Down The Walls, Dean, would ask the crowd questions and if they chose to answer yes to those questions, they would “cross the line”, meaning the median line of the basketball court. The first few questions were surface level, and then they became progressively more personal. It’s hard to describe in the context of an article, but if you can imagine, nearly everyone in that gym began to see vulnerable pieces of their peers, previously unknown. There were tears.
If you’re wondering how this day applies to any of the issues surrounding our school’s culture; the answer is complicated. Simply put; in an environment where people have failed to understand each other, making them listen to one and other can be very effective. Our school and country have failed to listen in the past, so this is an admirable task to take on. That’s what BDTW has attempted to begin, and hopefully, its effects will linger.
Now that we are on our own, the steps forward are uncertain. The program was not intended nor expected to solve the problems at our school instantaneously. Many students and teachers have proved to not be discouraged by these facts and instead seem even more driven. Our school club devoted to these issues, Student Voices for Equity, is continuing the conversations that have been started. If these issues are close to your heart, and you want to aid in making a difference, or you’re just curious, I encourage you to visit Ms. Nelson’s room after school on Wednesdays and participate. This is not the only example of conversations happening surrounding the formerly neglected issues our school has: we are lucky to have an administration that listens to us, especially when considering our Superintendent Student Advisory. This resource allows student concerns to go directly to school officials.
Breaking Down The Walls was great, but outsiders can only do so much. Besides these organized efforts made by the school, it will take work to create a respectful, diverse, understanding environment which we so desperately need.