For the past year now, anyone who drives down Coldwater Canyon can see that our neighbors are unhappy with us.
Along the way to a school that prioritizes integrity and purpose beyond ourselves, signs emblazoned with hurtful phrases like “Stop Harvard-Westlake’s Destruction of the Coldwater Canyon” paint us as some sort of evil vying for our private parking garage without a thought for our neighbors or the environment.
One of President Rick Commons’ new vision statements is to “find new ways to serve Los Angeles and earn the trust of our neighbors.” We are prioritizing our relationship with our neighbors more than ever before. Although we are certainly not the kind of school that many of the signs make us out to be, we students haven’t always been the perfect neighbors, and it’s time to change that.
We have seen some of our classmates block driveways when they park on Halkirk, leave trash on nearby lawns and speed up the center lane on Coldwater.
The actions of only a few students have reflected poorly on the entire community —students, teachers and administrators —and they are not representative of Harvard-Westlake as a whole.
Upper school students do more than 10,000 hours of community service each year. We have invited local residents to use our track and pools, hosted training for the Special Olympics and planted trees with TreePeople. We value our community.
Sometimes it’s easy to get distracted defending ourselves against neighbors with “Stop Harvard-Westlake” signs on their lawns and forget where they are coming from.
There is also no doubt that some students are disrepectful towards neighbors in response to these signs. When the complaints start to feel like personal attacks, it can be difficult for us to look at the bigger picture.
At the end of the day, however, it is a matter of respect. While we are first and foremost a part of Harvard-Westlake, we are also members of a larger community and will continue to be for years to come.
While the benefits of a parking structure may be clear to us, it is at the core of our values and beliefs to respect the opinions of those whom our decisions will affect and, more importantly, treat others, especially the neighbors, with the values we have always strived for.
The minute we allow our character to be compromised by what has become a political tiff, we lose our integrity.
Regardless of the matter at hand, and however many wounding pitchforks may seem to come our way, we have to rise above.
It’s a new school year, a new beginning, and it is time for students to do better. What we really only have control over is how we carry ourselves. No matter how this conflict tests our character, we have to stay true to what we believe in.