As I sat in my left split, stretching for our usual Monday practice, a fellow cheerleader hushed the entire team and said she wanted to tell us about her day at school. During her math class, her friends had gotten into a controversial debate about racial profiling.
After hearing about her class, the beginning of our cheerleading practice then turned into a political discussion about the recent terrorist attack on Paris. We wanted to know the ways in which we could help raise awareness about the situation. We discussed the effectiveness of the new Facebook trend of filtering profile pictures with the French flag.
Every cheerleader had something to contribute to the greater discussion on race, immigration and terrorism.
That’s when it hit me. As I continued to stretch out my wrists and neck, I realized how politically aware our student body is, and that I was grateful to be in a safe environment where I could not only speak my mind but also learn from different opinions.
Harvard-Westlake is in a pretty special position where meaningful dialogue about real-world issues goes beyond the classroom environment and diffuses into daily conversations.
It’s true that I didn’t find that all of my teammates shared the same political opinion as I did. And not everyone was aware of other tragedies occurring at similar time periods, including the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Japan, the crashing of a Russian passenger plane and even the local tragedies of police officers being murdered. But discussion stemming from the Paris attack is a start in the right direction to broadening the dialogue to include bigger issues on humanity.
I think the biggest surprise for me was engaging in such a controversial topic during the most unexpected time. As a journalist, I’m always expected to know about key current events, and as a student in classes such as government, I’m always talking about political issues within a classroom environment.
My teammates have no such background to push them to stay politically aware, and yet they were able to enlighten me. It made me really thankful for such an active and diverse community.
It’s sometimes trite to hear that Harvard-Westlake fosters a diverse and inclusive community. But for the first time during my experience here, I’ve finally understood a new meaning of what it means to be just that—and it starts with the politically aware students that surround me and teach me something new every day.