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Students Strive to Improve School Community Through Principal’s Forum

Kyle Dunlavey, Staff Writer

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The Principal’s Forum, created by Principal Jeff Olivero, is a student leadership group that is intended to get students to come together to “create positive change in our school community,” he explained.

“The purpose is to talk about what’s happening in our world and society, find common ground, and talk about how we are all more alike than different. These student leaders are encouraged to share this knowledge and experience with their peers,” explained Olivero.

The Principal’s Forum was created in the aftermath of the United States 2016 Presidential Election, according to Olivero.

Olivero stated, [The members of the Principal’s Forum] agree that since the fall elections, there has been an increased level of unproductive rhetoric and negative comments. We felt this was true for our nation, state, local communities and at school. Since the elections, it’s as if people have suddenly decided that they can say and express an opinion, even though it is hurtful and without any type of fact or rationale.”

Olivero described how the Principal’s Forum “consists of a diverse cross-section of students that meet regularly to discuss various topics, including race, religion and discrimination.”

“The purpose of the group is to try to discover ways we are more alike than different. The group believes that most people want fairness, compassion, respect and love,” Olivero added.

Junior Natalie Dimes commented, “[The forum] shows the different minority groups at school, the different races at school, how we all get along, and some different problems we can fix.”

According to Dimes, people “…have the wrong idea about certain groups at school. They have just been taught by their parents or raised in a certain way where they think that. For example, [they could think] all African Americans are bad, all Muslims are terrorists or are connected to ISIS, or all Mexicans are drug-dealers. I think this mentality won’t just go away, because we can’t really just put it aside, but I think I could make people see the real Natalie Dimes, not the Muslim in the scarf.”

“We are hoping to create a student movement that is based on tolerance and the understanding that differences are a strength, not a weakness,” elaborated Olivero.

In order to be a member of the Principal’s Forum, students have to be invited by one of the current members.   According to Olivero, “We asked teachers to give us the names of students who they felt could be important contributors to the Principal’s Forum, and had a student voice that needed to be heard. We initially invited twenty eight students to participate. From the twenty eight, there were thirteen who agreed to be part of the group.”

Another member of the forum, Junior Jared Stahl, said that the group are reading various books together, from a variety of cultures and by multi-ethnic authors. He explained, “There’s one about Muslims, there’s one about Mexicans, there’s one about Blacks, and there’s one about Whites. They all show how every racial group has been affected in many ways.”

Olivero said that the four books are The Warmth of the Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, In the Country We Love by Diane Guerrero, and Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age Story by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh.

“The group has talked about the theme of a caste system in America, as portrayed by the four authors. And while each author has their own story to tell, each experienced what it felt like to be treated differently, strictly because of their religion, race, or national origin,” elaborated Olivero.

The forum has grown since its creation. According to Stahl, “Many things have changed [since the creation of the forum]. We’ve been growing in numbers, and we have more people who are wanting to be a part of the forum now. It has certainly made a huge impact with many of the members.”

Stahl sees more potential in the forum. “I think if we keep it up how it is right now, next year it’s going to be a bigger group. We might have to move it to the gym or the auditorium,” stated Stahl.

“We will likely have some form of a Principal’s Forum [next year]. Allowing students the ability to tackle campus concerns and issues is always helpful for a principal and a school,” explained Olivero.

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Students Strive to Improve School Community Through Principal’s Forum