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The 2019-20 Robert Louis Stevenson school year is off to a jam-packed start. To kick things off, there were two orientation days, one for new (… more)
Many paths exist in student life at Stevenson. We closely followed three prominent organizations to see how they serve as a platform for student engagement and social-emotional connections. Here’s our inside look.
Early in the winter, Student Council met with Head of School Chris Ongaro to explore a one-day, student-run alternate schedule that explored broad and personal ties to the holidays. It proved successful with diverse curated experiences and genuine student expression. Student Council members and Ongaro also discussed the upcoming prom.
“It’s been really great,” Jamie, Student Council President, said of working in student government. “I’m really happy that I’m able to make a difference. Last year, I worked with Chris on the dress code, and it really just proved to me how much of a difference it can make when you’re trying to help provide for the community and just make it a better place for everyone else. I definitely notice a difference in how I feel, going around the school, and I feel a lot of peers do too.”
When asked about Student Council accomplishments, Jamie mentioned an SAT prep program and discussed a general sense of pride that comes when there is unity in the student government.
“I think we definitely make sure that students know who they can go and talk to if they’re having issues,” Jamie said. “I definitely talk to people one-on-one myself and everybody knows that they can go to anybody in the Student Council. It’s really great, too, because we have a lot of students who aren’t on the Student Council and they come to us with their ideas that they’ve already formulated and all we have to do is talk to administration about it. They’re putting in the work because we’re proving to them that when you do that, you get something out of it and it ends up benefiting everybody else as a whole.”
Added Student Council Vice President Julian: “It’s been really cool to just advocate for everyone and to work with all the new teachers that come in and all the new students. It’s been a really good experience.”
On Tuesdays during lunch, the Stevenson GSX (gender and sexuality) club hosts one of its two weekly meetings. Facilitated by Student Council Faculty Chair Daniel Aulbach-Sidibe, students discussed issues relating to gender and sexuality that overlapped with politics and the internet. GSX is a free-flowing club; sometimes group members talk about issues, other times they draw and hang out.
“The club really provides the definition of a safe space,” Aulbach-Sidibe said. “A place where students can voice their opinions about anything from current events to events happening in the school to their own personal journeys towards finding their true identities. And I really allow the students to take more of a leadership role. We do suggest things, and we do talk about things, and we are going to plan an annual trip, but it’s really a very kind of deconstructed environment. We invite other faculty members to join and are constantly inviting other students to join.”
Aulbach-Sidibe praised how well students in GSX listened to one another and respected differing opinions.
On the Thursday before winter break, the Black and Latinx Student Union (BLU) hosted a lunchtime dessert party, featuring flan, cake, and tres leches. BLU members spoke extensively with one another about the desserts they brought. History teacher Jose Sanchez played DJ, putting on some Ramito, as well as Bachata and Romeo Santos, and a few students danced. BLU President and Founder Maya, a Stevenson junior, facilitated a sign-up sheet for future meetings.
“I like people coming together,” Maya said. “We have people who aren’t of color, and we have great discussions, and I just want it to be a big conversation.”
Aulbach-Sidibe spoke to the camaraderie of all student-run organizations at Stevenson when he said: “I think it’s integral to what we do. I think it’s sort of the icing on the cake because it makes things real. It’s a time when students can have that deconstructed time where they can be themselves, where they can interact with each other and they can have time with adults that isn’t always task-driven.”
Stevenson values such work as opportunities to experience successes and challenges outside of classes, and there is great pride in the student initiative and faculty and staff support that make the groups possible.