Freshman “Diversity Week” revamped
Ellen Duffer | Associate Editor
The refurbished schedule for the freshmen’s mornings of OGT week is a product of brain-storming and communication, according to Assistant Principal William Rice. Freshman homerooms participated in various activities aimed at raising awareness for societal issues during the administration of the OGT each morning this week, led by junior and senior Sibs, he said. In the past, the week focused on discussing diversity, but Rice said after he spoke with students who had previously been involved in executing the plans, he and a committee of Mason High School staff members decided to broaden Freshman Activity Week’s goals.Initially, Rice said he was approached by Principal Mindy McCarty-Stewart to lead the redesign of the week that, in years before, had been planned by MHS psychologist Jeff Schlaeger and multiple teachers.
“Mrs. McCarty-Stewart asked me two or three months ago to look at what was called ‘Diversity Week’ and figure out where we wanted to go,” Rice said. “In previous years, it wasn’t really administrative-led: it was a committee of teachers and Mr. Schlaeger, the school psychologist really was kind of the main facilitator on that. For a number of reasons, he had to step away from that position, this year.”
English teacher and Sibs adviser Betsy Carras said Rice then asked her for help garnering feedback from students who had been involved in assisting with the activities in the past.
“I had not been really involved in it in the past except for getting the Sibs involved in it,” Carras said. “I just kind of ran with what they wanted us to do. The kids were really involved a lot last year and the year before. So, this year, Mr. Rice came to me and said, ‘I know the students were involved and I just need to know more about it,’ because he was new. He decided he wanted to talk to some people about…all that stuff that they had done in the past, and I gave him about 10 or 15 names of students that I knew would be willing to open up and tell how they felt.”
After learning what students felt had been valuable from previous Diversity Weeks, Carras said a committee of MHS staff members, assembled by Rice, discussed what to salvage of the past activities and what to replace.
“As a committee, we were all talking about different things we thought our students could benefit from and figured out what we can do to change it up and keep what the students thought was good,” Carras said. “That’s kind of how it evolved. We went through a whole brainstorming of different topics.”
The committee originally considered organizing a mass community service project to be completed by the freshmen in MHS’ Field House, according to Rice, who said he stressed the importance of a service learning project after meeting with individuals from YouGive.org, an organization devoted to community service. Ideas were discussed that would have necessitated a larger group effort, but Carras said the difficulties in such tentative plans were recognized.
“We had bigger goals set, and we just thought [it] was so hard with our numbers,” Carras said. “We wanted to do a service project where the kids were actually working, [but] it just couldn’t work with our numbers. We wanted to do stuff with the special needs kids in the school, but we just couldn’t do that with our numbers. So, there [were] a lot of challenges that we had to overcome to make it work.”
Carras said the committee was limited in its community service plans because of the size of the class of 2014: the service learning project, she said, could not realistically have been collectively active, working simultaneously as one group. Instead, according to Carras, the committee decided to compile Personal Care Kits for patients at Grace Children’s Hospital throughout the week, stocking Ziploc baggies with items in individual homerooms.
The service project, Carras said, is a tangible product of a successfully orchestrated week of a myriad of activities.
“We have lots of good things [that] happen[ed], a lot of speakers [that came] in,” Carras said. “There [were] a lot of people who had great ideas that were part of it.”