‘What’s it like to be’ sparks reflection and empathy

Club project explores student experiences with diversity

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Student Voices in Equity sponsored the installation of panels throughout the halls allowing students to share their perspective of identity at New Trier.

The panels were set up at the Winnetka campus starting the week of Apr. 30, and they are now headed to the Northfield campus to spread the conversation about microaggression.

Students participated in this activity by responding to the prompt “What is it like to be____ at New Trier?,” which led them to reflect on how they have been treated based on their identity.

The main goal of the project, set in motion by the Student Voices in Equity club members and sponsors social studies teacher Todd Maxman and special education teacher Ann Marie Serpa, was to increase visibility of marginalized groups by allowing students to speak their truths anonymously.

Senior José Chavez believes the anonymity of the project has made it easier for students to talk about their experiences with them.

Chavez said, “Our goal was very broad and general: to spread awareness, and I definitely believe we achieved this goal.”

While conducting the project, club members emphasized that “these statements represent a “truth,” a real experience people who inhabit this building have had and continue to have,” according to a handout given at the club’s forum during an open advisery period on May 17.

During the forum, students from outside of the club joined together with club members to discuss what comes next for the project and how to deal with microaggression, which the club defined as a comment or action that subtly and often unintentionally expresses a prejudice toward a member of a marginalized group.

As there are many different groups of people at New Trier, “sometimes we get trapped in our friend groups, so the exposure to how our peers feel is good to have,” said one student who attended the forum.

The project sparked reflection and encouraged people to be more aware of the effects actions have on students as well as honoring equality and humanity among students.

Going forward, members of Student Voices in Equity hope to increase the visibility of marginalized groups and inspire students to answer the question: “can we foster a greater sense of community, particularly now that we know more about each other?”

“This project allows us to acknowledge what’s there in terms of the struggles of the marginalized groups represented through this project. The next step is to act on that.”

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