Greenwich is a diverse town as reflected in its student population, which includes 30% minority students. With any kind of diversity, comes the inevitable issues of prejudice, discrimnation and bullying.
Last week Greenwich High School's Class of 2016 took part in an all-day workshop co-sponsored by GHS and the Anti-Defamation League in a program called “Names Can Really Hurt Us.”
According to Carol Sutton, GHS Learning Facilitator and Social Studies teacher, the program is designed to "invite students to explore how name-calling and other forms of prejudice can poison the atmosphere at school and lead to serious consequences."
Newly-elected Freshmen Class President Claudia Riccardi said that Names Day was "an eye opening experience to the affects of bullying."
For example, the 9th graders received a lesson in the terms perpetrator, ally, and bystander. The intent was to empower targets to stand up to perpetrators; demonstrate how words and and actions can hurt and as a result hopefully teaching perpetrators empathy and finally, to encourage bystanders to instead become allies. The unexpected revelation was that being a bystander is just as bad as being a perpetrator.
The rules of the day were embedded in the acronym ROPES:
- take a risk by sharing feelings and stories and respect the stories that are told;
- communicate and listen with openess;
- everyone should participate;
- listen represented by the spanish word escuchar;
- an environment which is safe.
Last Thursday marked the 13th consecutive year that the program was delivered to GHS freshmen, which is also brought to other high schools throughout Connecticut, including Staples in Westport, Weston, Darien, and Fairfield.
"Names Day" began with "an assembly during which members of the student body will share their experiences with prejudice, either as targets, perpetrators, bystanders, or allies," according to Sutton.
Following the assembly, there were prepared speeches by GHS students as well as an open dialogue period at the microphone during which students in the audience were able to share their own feelings and experiences.
After the presentation, the freshmen ate lunch together in a specially scheduled lunch block and then entered a discussion period to cap off the day meant to combat prejudice.
"I hope it makes people think before they say something and not judge others by their outer appearance," said Riccardi. In a Parentlink email, GHS Headmaster Chris Winters told 9th grade parents that "our ninth grade students typically identify Names Day as one of the most memorable days of the year for them."
In the GPS Vision of a Graduate, there is an aim to educate globally sensitive students. Achieving such a goal needs to start at home with the acceptance of fellow students in the hallways of Greenwich High School.