The school’s new Social Justice Council held its first meeting on November 21, following the selection of members of the Council through an application process. The Council is spearheaded by Amnah Ahmad (’15) and Maria-Jose Nebreda (’15), and will be under the advisement of Math Department Head Neil Basu and Dean of Admissions Jodi Warren.
The committee of students who originally decided to start the Council, including Ahmad and Nebreda, tried to pick a diverse group of members after reading the ideas in their applications. From there, the committee used personal judgement as to whether they would be accessible people to approach if a student had an issue related to social justice.
The Council informally began in June, when club leaders from various diversity clubs came together to create a sort of umbrella club. Through conversation, and a drive from Ahmad and Nebreda, the group was eventually altered to form the Social Justice Council.
Nebreda has her own personal reasons for starting the Council. “What made me feel so strongly about wanting to make it was that there were times that I wanted to do something or say something or wanted something to be done and there was no way to do that,” Nebreda said. “If you went to a club they would start a discussion and help me but there was no set group of people that I could go to if I felt uncomfortable about something.”
The Council’s goals are to discuss, educate, assist and provide support relating to all issues of social justice within the High School. “The goal is to make the school a better place; It’s cheesy but that’s actually it. My goal is to make everyone feel like they’re more included,” Ahmad said.
Much of the Council’s early work will pertain to establishing an identity for themselves within the High School. “The first year it’s going to be hard to get started and do everything. It’s going to be a lot of seeing what we’ll have to do and putting our name out there and getting the reputation of what we’re going to be,” Nebreda said.
However, Nebreda is clear on the stance she wants to take in tackling the school’s social justice issues. “Obviously discussing things is good, but that’s already happening, what we wanted is the more action side of it,” she said.
The Council wants to take things a step further from discussion, instead using dialogue to raise awareness, and provide support for issues brought forth. This can be achieved through posters, schoolwide conversation, or on the Council’s newly created website.
One of the most important aspects of social justice for Basu, which he hopes the Council will help to tackle, is placing more importance on education regarding issues of social justice. “I don’t think that social change happens without education and I think a lot of times education gets piled into just the core subjects,” he said. “I feel that some of the wider, and sometimes more important things about education get sidelined in conversations.”
For Ahmad, these issues encompass “anything to do with people, fairness and fitting in.”
Basu can simplify social justice to refer to equality. “One of the things social justice is about is looking where privilege exists in society and finding ways to reveal and acknowledge that privilege and find ways so that people who don’t have that privilege can be given the same chance of success and opportunity,” he said.
Simultaneously, Nebreda feels that providing a support system for students to use when something has happened to them and don’t feel comfortable approaching administration or faculty is of paramount importance in creating this Council. “Having a place where the students are kind of helping other students is really important,” she said.