Cultural Awareness day to take over WA
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Cultural Awareness day to take over WA

Andrew Friel, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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The administration of Westford Academy, in light of recent instances of racism and prejudice, has announced they will host a Cultural Awareness Day on March 22nd. The day will focus on being more racially and culturally sensitive, and will feature a variety of speakers and workshops for all students to attend through the school day, in lieu of classes.

Principal Jim Antonelli said this was kicked off by students within the school rather than just straight from the adults in the building.

“Some students came forward and they’ve been outstanding. They’ve called multiple speakers. They have really helped to guide this particular day,” Antonelli said.

In conjunction with the Diversity and Inclusion committee, this Cultural Awareness Day will be an all school event to take place within the confines of the normal school day.

Students will first head to homerooms to watch videos on topics such as courageous conversations and micro aggressions, and a review of important vocabulary. Students will also be given a survey about the climate of the school as it pertains to issues relating to prejudice.

Following those presentations, grades will be instructed to specific locations in the school for several different activities. Freshmen and juniors will be sent to a panel in the PAC, with speakers featuring a recent WA alum Hannah Rosenstein.

At the same time, sophomores and seniors will be offered the chance to see speakers located in the main and aux gyms, the library, and the cafe. One notable speaker in this session is recently retired history teacher Ron Koehler, who will be located in the main gym.

These groups of grades will then switch locations, with the sophomores and seniors moving to the PAC and the freshmen and juniors will be given the freedom to choose among the many speakers.

After this final hour, students will be either sent to homerooms or to the PAC to view a film made by teacher and Cambodian refugee Brandan Eang by the title Floating on Lotus Flowers. The full lunch schedule from the guidance email is below:

10:35-1:00 Movie (Floating on Lotus Flowers – B. Eang – 45 minute movie, Q&A at end)

10:35-11:45  Grades 9/11 PAC Floating on Lotus Flowers

11:50-1:00 Grades 10/12 PAC Floating on Lotus Flowers

— INTRODUCTION: Mr. Gagne & Mr. Eang

10:35-11:05 Grade 12 lunch & Grade 10 HR

11:10-11:45 Grade 10 lunch & Grade 12 HR

11:50-12:25 Grade 11 lunch & Grade   9 HR

12:30-1:00 Grade 9   lunch & Grade 11 HR

By 1 pm, all students will be in their respective homerooms to create posters and be spoken to by peer counselors and watch a final wrap up video. There has also been some time left at the very end of the day to have breakout sessions with the individual speakers in the PAC.

Via an email from the guidance department, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee stressed the efforts taken to put on the day of education.

“Many hours have been spent preparing for this event.  Several of your peers have worked closely with the Westford Academy Administration and the Cultural Diversity and Inclusion Committee to organize the day.  It should be a very educational experience for everyone who attends,” the email read.

Antonelli also is strongly against the idea of students skipping the day since there will be no classes to attend.

“This isn’t a skip day. This isn’t a day that you’re out. To me, that would show complete ignorance,” Antonelli said.

While many students seem to either have no opinion or a positive outlook on the event, there is a sect of students who feel this event will not achieve the goal it hopes to reach, and they feel it will not strike the chord with students that the school wishes to hit.

“Most kids would rather take advantage of the true purpose of this day and take a day of absence than to truly try and appreciate the diversity with WA. It’s not worth it,” senior Isabella Xu said. “I think this is a lame attempt in trying to get others to accept each other when we could be using tax dollars wisely and doing something productive.”

Senior Matt Whelan agreed with Xu.

“I think it is a good way to get out of class, but in terms of the actual goal, it is going to accomplish nothing and kids will treat it as a joke,” Whelan said.

Overall, however, Antonelli is optimistic about the day’s impact on the student body of Westford Academy.

“We really feel this is going to be a terrific day,” Antonelli said