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Source: Abby Y. '20 for Westridge Spyglass
Over President’s Day weekend, 11 students took the train two hours south to Tijuana to explore the issue of immigration from a global perspective. The four-day trip was designed to give the students from Jennifer Marcus’s Global Studies class and Bonnie Martinez’s El Mundo Advanced Spanish class (which focuses on global issues) the opportunity to explore multiple perspectives on U.S. foreign policies and delve deeper into students’ language skills.
“As a global studies student, you learn about things in an abstract way – you learn the statistics and the facts about the events, but you don’t get to experience it,” said Sophia R. ’20. “Talking to people and learning their stories is something that you can’t get in a classroom...you understand that there are people behind these statistics and these news articles. It’s more than a political issue, it’s a human issue.”
The trip began with a meeting with a U.S. border patrol officer who gave her perspective on the current immigration situation. “It was interesting to start off hearing [from her]. I think we all have this kind of image in our heads when we hear about border patrol, but she’s a human and a mother, and hearing her perspective...humbled us for the rest of the trip and it made us think about the other side,” said Abby Y. ’20.
Once in Mexico, the group spoke, in Spanish, with many asylum seekers, including a man from the much-publicized caravan from Honduras who had arrived at the border suffering from dehydration after walking over 2,000 miles from Honduras. They spoke to women from Africa who, when asked how they came, responded that they had come by bus, boat, car, and by crawling through the jungle. They spoke to a U.S. military veteran who had been deported after living in America since he was three-years-old.
The group spent their remaining time in Tijuana volunteering at shelters where they fed more than 1,500 people and attending a bi-national church service on the border that preached unity and human empathy across borders.
“This is an experience that allows your daughter to gain language skills, to do service, to understand American foreign policy, and to gain independence – all in four days,” said Marcus. “This is a powerful experience because you can look at how shifts in U.S foreign policy can effect what is happening in Mexico in real time. Having this kind of exposure and seeing how these policies affect people and being there to talk to them is really powerful.”
To learn more about the trip, see Isabel A.’s article in Spyglass about her experience on the trip here.
Thirty-six Upper School students volunteered to spend a recent Saturday on campus to lend their voice to the future of Westridge. The Dream Summit event, part of the school’s strategic planning process, was spearheaded by sophomore Sosi D. and facilitated by Westridge Trustee Holly Bowyer. Participants discussed the school’s mission and purpose, its strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities, and the characteristics of Westridge graduates (this final discussion was disguised in an exercise that asked participants to envision a Westridge student superhero!)
“Our strategic planning process is a great opportunity for community reflection. We wanted to empower our students to be part of it and Sosi’s proposal of a Dream Summit was a perfect fit,” said Elizabeth J. McGregor, head of school. “The girls were enthusiastic and inspiring. Their thoughtfulness over the course of the day showed a commitment to the school and wanting to be a part of making it even better.”
“My inspiration for the Dream Summit came both from my experiences with a similar platform when I lived in Jakarta and from my daily life at Westridge. It became clear to me almost right away that students needed an outlet to discuss their thoughts about the school,” said Sosi. “Ultimately, Westridge exists to educate us. So, as empowered young women, I feel it is our duty to seek solutions, especially here!
The school’s strategic planning process has included meetings with parents, alumnae, and trustees and includes a faculty task force. Work will continue through the year with the goal of publishing the school’s new five-year strategic plan in the fall of 2019.
Every year, the peer support program Peer-to-Peer hosts Love Your Body week in a school-wide effort to raise awareness around issues of body image, healthy nutrition, and critical awareness of media messages directed at girls and women. For this year’s program, which took place this week, Peer-to-Peer reimagined the week as Love Beyond Your Body. By using Dr. Lindsay Kite’s definition of beauty, which focuses on the body as an instrument rather than an ornament, they aimed to engage as many different student perspectives as possible. “In the past, we’ve focused on very specific topics like the effect of media images,” said Anelise P. ’20, one of the Peer-to-Peer leaders in charge of implementing this week’s events.
“This year we wanted to focus less on the idea of loving your appearance…We thought if we changed it to Love Beyond [Your Body], people could talk about whatever is important to them.”And that is exactly what happened in this week’s Upper School Town Meeting. Testimonials in the meeting covered a wide range of topics, from eating disorders and self-care routines, to the perspective of transgender students and their unique struggles with their relationships to their bodies. Throughout the week, Peer-to-Peer also posted signs around campus with messages of self-love, hosted a showing of Dr. Kite’s Tedx Talk, and visited 6th grade homerooms and 7th grade Human Development classes to discuss these topics with younger students who have not traditionally participated in these
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