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This year during Black History Month Westridge is celebrating the 55 years of black excellence at Westridge. This year marks the 55th anniversary of Westridge’s first black graduate, Genna Rae McNeil ’65, dance director Kashmir Blake’s 25th anniversary, and Lower and Middle School Director Zanita Kelly’s first year.
So far this month, we’ve enjoyed Dr. Kelly’s first Read Aloud of picture books by black authors and illustrators and 10 fifth graders accepted Dr. Kelly’s optional challenge assignment to research and report on an inspiring black woman. For taking this on, they were invited to a special lunch with Dr. Kelly where they presented their reports (pictured above). Over pizza and cobbler, the girls learned about and celebrated women from Harriet Tubman and Katherine Johnson to The Black Mambas and Ibtihaj Muhammad.
Upcoming Black History Month events on campus:
Soul Food Breakfast and Potluck ** Parents are invited – please join us!***
February 19, 7:15-9 pm, Pitcairn Living Room
All parents and students are invited to our inaugural Soul Food Breakfast and Potluck next week! Please email Dr. Alisa Hale (DrAHale@aol.com) if you are interested in bringing your favorite soul food dish to the potluck.
Student Voices Assembly: Spotlight on Kashmir Blake
Students Voices is organizing an assembly in recognition of Kashmir Blake’s 25-year career as the director of dance at Westridge. An example of black excellence on the Westridge campus and in the greater world of dance, arts, and entertainment, Kashmir Blake has impacted and inspired countless students and dancers.
Read Alouds with Dr. Zanita Kelly
Dr. Kelly will host two additional lunchtime Read Alouds this month, reading picture books in celebration of the black literary tradition. Titles she has selected include Girls Hold Up This World by Jada Pinkett Smith, Childtimes by Eloise Greenfield and Lessie Jones Little, Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee, and Just the Two of Us by Will Smith.
Women of Color Wednesdays Kick-off with Cree Summer
As a continuation of our celebration of black excellence, Women of Color Wednesdays (WCW) will launch on March 4 with a lunch presentation about Cree Summer. WCW is a lunch series focused on celebrating the brilliance of women of color and deepening our understanding of the contributions that women of color have made to arts and culture, STEM fields, and society at large.
On March 4, students, faculty, and staff will learn about Cree Summer, a prolific voice actress with over 300 credits to her name including work on The Rugrats, Tiny Toons, Atlantis, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Codename: Kids Next Door, Teen Titans Go!, The Powerpuff Girls, The Loud House, The Boondocks, Rick & Morty, and more! Clips will be shown from some of her most iconic work, in which she is known for bringing “black girl magic” to animation.
Late Friday morning, Pitcairn Living Room was packed with students from Westridge’s Upper School World Views class and Eagle Rock High School’s (ERHS) Model United Nations program. Blazer-clad with notebooks and gavels at the ready, these students convened in a roundtable meeting meant to mimic a real crisis committee—or a conference of representatives focusing on a specific issue. Their topic? The recent protests in Hong Kong.
“My World Views class studies both historical and contemporary issues,” said teacher Lorri Deyer. “I wanted to find a way for them to discuss real-world topics in a very hands-on way. This crisis committee simulation was an amazing opportunity for them to not only learn about an issue affecting our world today, but also to practice diplomacy, negotiation, and debate skills.”
Prior to the day, the World Views 9th graders were each assigned a character to play during the committee simulation; these roles varied from the chief executive of Hong Kong and other government officials, to farmers, police officers, university professors, lawyers, media reporters, and more. Each character came with an extensive biography written by the ERHS students, and Westridge students were required to study their character’s background and conduct their own research into the Hong Kong demonstrations in the days leading up to the committee.
The ERHS students acted as facilitators or “Dias” for the exercise, which they ran according to Model UN guidelines, and students from the Westridge Model UN club joined them as “crisis staff.” As the student committee members began to make motions and pass directives during the simulation, the ERHS and Westridge facilitators announced consequences to their actions (which often involved acting out a scene or revealing new obstacles to the committee’s proposed solutions, complicating the situation). The committee simulation lasted for nearly four hours, with the goal of finding an overall solution to the crisis.
“The crisis committee was incredibly fun and interesting,” said Claire S. ’23, who played a lawyer character during the simulation. “It did require a lot of work and was quite stressful, but I think my entire class can agree that the experience was worth it. We were able to research, plan ahead, and think on our feet. Doing the activity with the ERHS students was also very helpful, as they were ready to tell us exactly how things worked and help moderate the experience.”
Deyer added, “I think it was important that we worked across schools, because the students were learning new skills while interacting with new people. Plus, the juniors from Eagle Rock High School got the opportunity to lead and the freshmen from Westridge learned from their older peers. This event was one of my best memories in all my years of teaching and it’s because the students were in charge and very invested."
Click here or scroll down to see more photos from the event!
Though in past years all seniors presented their four-year personal service-learning projects―Community Action Projects (CAP)―at a group showcase just prior to graduation, this year presentations have already begun with a new series of individual lunchtime forums.
“The showcase at the end of the year always created such a powerful buzz about service, and then we would all leave for summer break and it would be forgotten,” said Erica St. John, service and community engagement coordinator. “By having regular exposure to service and great projects with the lunch presentations, my hope is that our community thinks about service more often. Seniors can share their projects, generate that service buzz, and mentor younger students while they are still on campus.”
In mid-January, Jaya S. ’20 kicked off this new format with a presentation about her experience as an assistant teacher to children with learning differences and cerebral palsy in India. The presentation was attended by students, faculty, and even an alumna!
The visual element of the presentations is also being reinvented with project websites replacing old-school poster boards. In addition to the added value of including video and interactive elements on websites, students can also submit their websites as part of their college applications.
Director of College Counseling Lynn O’Grady said, “As the Westridge motto states so well, our students are living lives of impact in truly significant ways. If it’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine the possibilities of what can be communicated through websites and videos beyond the Westridge community. This new digital platform showcases the depth and breadth of service that has been done over the last four years.”
Because this is a transition year, featured seniors will present their projects in the upcoming lunch talks, while those who chose the poster option will share their work on April 28. Some of the projects the community can look forward to learning about in the lunch talks include Juliane Z. ’20, who teaches English to orphans in Colombia and Nepal via Skype, Jay K. ’20, who designed her own tools to help people with developmental disabilities write and draw (read more about her project here), and Reese O. ’20 and Abby Y. ’20, who took over leadership of Camp Curie, a Community Action Project created by another Westridge student in 2017 that provides a free science camp for young girls to inspire passion for the sciences.
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Calendar HighlightsView More
- ThuFeb20 11th Grade Parent Coffee 8:00 AM to 9:30 AMUrth Caffé, 594 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91101
- ThuFeb20 Multicultural Parent Collaborative (MPC) Potluck 6:30 PM to 9:00 PMPitcairn Living Room
- TueFeb25 Faculty & Staff Appreciation Breakfast 7:30 AM to 9:30 AMCommunity Room
- ThuFeb27 Assembly - Theme #3 (Middle & Upper School Only) 2:40 PM to 3:10 PMPAC