WJHS’s Civil Rights Team Holds ‘Be Yourself Week’

Post date: Feb 18, 2014 3:28:52 PM

The newly formed Civil Rights Team at Wells Junior High School (WJHS) held a ‘Be Your Self Week’ for their school from February 3rd through the 7th. The 10-member group held activities during the week to educate students and staff about basic human civil rights, to reinforce the notion that all students are unique and diverse to varying degrees and to stress the importance of respecting others while striving to be one’s self.

As part of their anti-bias mission, the team made a presentation at lunch times on Monday, met with faculty and staff on Tuesday, sponsored a parent evening Wednesday, featured Dress Like Yourself Day on Thursday, and held Hat Day on Friday. They also created a display on a bulletin board that the team has been given to promote their message.

The centerpiece of the week was a school wide assembly in the Ward Gymnasium on the morning of February 6th featuring Brandon Baldwin, the Coordinator for the Civil Rights Team Project (CRTP) of the Office of the Maine Attorney General in Augusta.

“Our Civil Rights Team chose to have “Be Yourself Week” because we know that unfortunately, schools, even our school, is not a place where individuals always feel comfortable being themselves,” said Assistant WJHS Principal Robert Griffin in introducing Mr. Baldwin.

During his presentation, Baldwin, a mentor to over 150 civil rights school teams across Maine, showed a cartoon on bias. “I believe the cartoon in Mr. Baldwin’s presentation showed students and staff that things such as race, ethnicity, and things that make us all individuals, should not be dividing lines between us,” commented Griffin. “We can all learn to accept people as the individuals they are.”

Baldwin also spoke on such topics as the development of the human brain in adolescence. And like the team, he hammered home the importance of being one’s self to students as they grow into adults. Towards the end of his presentation, Baldwin asked the members of the Civil Rights Team to stand up and be recognized by their peers and school staff members.

“I feel like this assembly went really well and our school will have a better understanding of the Civil Rights Project and what we’re trying to do to help,” said Civil Rights Team member and seventh grade student Daisy Aromando. Another team member, 5th grader Kate Pinette added, “Well, I thought it was really cool because some people didn't know what civil rights meant and Brandon Baldwin did an awesome job explaining it to everybody”. The team has two in-school advisors including Assistant Principal Griffin and Guidance Counselor Kristie Soucy.

“I am truly energized by the students on the Civil Rights Team,” commented Soucy. “They are a positive and energetic group. The assembly furthered our message as a team and has given us a jumping off point to continue this work in our school.”

According to Griffin, the Civil Rights Team at WJHS will meet twice a month. Some of those meetings will involve studying the school’s social climate and examining various student issues that may border on civil rights issues. Griffin indicated the group will also “plan events, make posters and create technology presentations”.

“I think the ‘be yourself’ message is an important message for adolescents to hear,” said Baldwin in an interview after the assembly. “I think the students in grades five, six, seven and eight have a hard time being themselves…”

When asked if students feel alone in their effort to be themselves Baldwin commented. “The great irony of adolescence, of course, is that they are all going through it. They are the furthest thing from alone but it very much feels like they are.”

As part of her comments on the success of the assembly Soucy added, “Our audience was completely engaged throughout the entire assembly. Brandon did such a beautiful job sharing the message of being yourself and how hard that can be, especially as a student in Middle School.”

Caption: Brandon Baldwin introduces members of the WJHS Civil Rights Team. Standing in front and facing the audience are (l to r) Kate Pinette, Hannah Wrigley, Daisy Aromando, Kai Rosenberg, Ben Stevens, Jon Box, Givon McLean, Brenda Griffin, John Keniston, and Alyssa Bacon.

Caption: Members of the WJHS Civil Rights Team (l to r): Brandon Baldwin, Brenda Griffin, Ben Stevens, Daisy Aromando, Alyssa Bacon, Kai Rosenberg, and Robert Griffin. Front row: Kristie Soucy, John Keniston, Kate Pinette, Hannah Wrigley, Givon McLean, and Jon Box.