Fostering community

Kelly Riopelle

While the lipstick “vandalism” incident last month may have disappeared from most people’s minds, I can’t help but remember the conversations it sparked during both my seventh period Chronicle class and on the quad days after. Although people felt torn about the topic, from feeling like it created more unnecessary work for the maintenance staff, or taking issue with the wording of the message, I noticed one thing in common. Harvard-Westlake should work harder to create an environment where discussions about body image, or other important topics can exist. While these topics do not pertain directly to school, they are still important to teenagers. Harvard-Westlake should work to create more programs and initiatives that can turn our school into more of a community.

Last year, the student workload survey results seemed to come as a surprise to many. As a student, I can tell you that I was not surprised in the slightest. I hear people complaining on the quad, in the cafeteria, in the classroom, in the library, from Weiler to Seaver. Many students aren’t happy. While some might say that it’s just because we are “teenagers” or that we bring it on ourselves by choosing to take rigorous classes, I firmly disagree. I am taking a fairly heavy course load this year, but I know that if I were to drop all of my APs and honors for the sake of a more balanced life, people would treat me like a second-class citizen or say something along the lines of “I thought you were smart.” Furthermore, I know students at other schools that are equally as rigorous who are happy, because of the additional support the school provides its students, whether in classes akin to our Peer Support, advocacy programs, which foster inter-grade relationships, or a more effective testing schedule for various classes.

While I know it’s unrealistic to expect the administration to limit the number of APs and honors you can take, or to eliminate APs all together like another Los Angeles-area private school, I think the school can work to create a more supportive environment in other ways. School should be a place where students can not only receive any academic support they need but also a venue where students can talk about other issues, like body image positivity, feminism, politics or anything else they are passionate or even just thinking about. While CiviTalks tried (and failed) to accomplish this feat, I hope the administration is working on other ways to make Harvard-Westlake a more humane place.

I think that a common mandatory lunch period is a step in the right direction, despite the challenges it creates in forming schedules. While I’m sure that it will take a while to work out the kinks, ultimately the administration has shown us that improving student quality of life has finally become a priority. Likewise, First and Third Wednesdays assemblies seem to be another way the school is working to create a more integrated community of students, teachers and faculty. I think the school should also create more events that could get students together on the weekends or after school, whether they be community service events, or the Moby Dick 24-hour read-a-thon. It’s events like these that help to remind us that Harvard-Westlake is more than just a place that spits out Ivy League commits. It is where we have spent and will spend the majority of our teenage years and hopefully, with some work, it can start to feel more like a community, a place where we can even enjoy coming to and take pride in being a part of.