In the 2016-2017 school year, the Anti-Defamation League made its appearance at CHS after acts of anti-semitism permeated the school. Representatives from the ADL led small group discussions regarding hate speech, and students were encouraged to voice not only their frustrations with the social media posts that included the hate speech, but also their hopes for the future of CHS. While each group discussion was unique, all groups ultimately reached the same conclusion: students wanted more opportunities to voice their opinions in front of the student body and the administration.
In an effort to meet these student body needs, CHS Student Activities Director Matthew Boswell has worked closely with CHS Principal Dan Gutchewsky to create a group known as the Student Activities Leadership Summit. The group’s goal is to improve inclusion at CHS by teaching various student club leaders how to initiate and lead conversations like the ones guided by ADL representatives.
In that regard, the Student Activities Leadership Summit will act as a type of training program, giving student leaders the chance to voice their ideas and to practice active and productive participation in difficult conversations.
“I think there will be times that we bring in people from ADL or the Link Crew governing body or even myself, and we’ll talk about how to have these difficult conversations with your clubs or with your classmates. But at the forefront, it’s whatever [students] think is important,” Boswell said.
Because the Student Activities Leadership Summit will act in part as a training program, Boswell selected the first round of participants by reaching out to CHS students who are active in other extracurricular clubs throughout the school. It is Boswell’s hope that, by teaching these specific student leaders how to lead important conversations, those leaders can then return to their respective clubs and spread the new techniques that they have acquired to other students.
In addition to serving as a training program for students, the Student Activities Leadership Summit will serve as a forum for the leaders of various CHS clubs to discuss any successes, questions, or concerns they have faced within their respective club. In this way, people from all different grades and groups of CHS can come together to help solve underlying issues they see within the school.
And when students cannot solve problems on their own, the Student Activities Leadership Summit connects those students to Dr. Gutchewsky and other members of Clayton administration so that students can get the support they need.
“I believe that Dr. Gutchewsky and I will be at every meeting. He’s the one in the building making those calls, but we’d be happy to go across to the central office and work with Dr. Dougherty. Of course, I want to give you guys as much creative control as possible. But then not everything will be accomplished. I want to make efforts to push things forward,” Boswell said.
Ultimately, the Summit will physically connect students to one another, but it is up to the students to use that connection to benefit their respective clubs. By creating a network through which student leaders can connect with one another, Boswell hopes that he can teach different clubs and CHS programs to rely more on one another. Rather than being an entirely independent entity, each club can come to rely on other student organizations for support and guidance. A club can also use the Summit as an opportunity to not only teach others about the work it has been doing, but also to encourage more students to get involved with its efforts.
“[We] want people from Captains’ Council getting involved with Community Service Club. Or when STUGO has an event, [we want people] out there for things like Clayton Connect. Maybe BSU will want to work with ASA and GSA about some sort of identity night,” Boswell said. “There are a lot of clubs at CHS that are trying to accomplish the same thing. For instance, we have a Diversity Unity club, a GSA club, feminist club, and a lot of new clubs. I’m really excited that they all exist, and I think that in their own personal bubble, it’s really important that they exist. But I also think that they should be working together. Clubs should be working with the Black Student Union, the Asian Student Association, they should be working with Community Service Club, they should be working with STUGO. [It’s a way] to pool our resources together and not to pull our kids thin – to be unified.”
By connecting the student unions of CHS, Boswell believes that the Summit will help guide CHS achieve social justice for all. Boswell hopes that the various student unions at CHS can work together to further support one another’s goals.
“I think that all the ADL stuff last year was really helpful. Something I heard a lot of was that students wish they had more of a say or a place to have these conversations,” Boswell said. “Especially going off of what has happened in our school and in our community last year and early this year, I want students to be able to have a place where they have a voice that I will hear – that Dr. Gutchewsky will hear. I want students to have a place where they can have those difficult conversations.”