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Students' Agency and Activism

Friday, March 30, 2018

On Tuesday evening, immediately following spring break, we had a good portion of our 8th grade parents in the community room of the new arts and community center for a reception and discussion of their Class of 2018 Legacy Gift. Parents spoke with a great deal of gratitude for the various gifts their children had accumulated over their Burgundy years. In various ways these gifts often add up to the sense, when one speaks to an 8th grader or graduate, of a sort of 'renaissance person' — someone with many interests, talents, and passions. Burgundy kids are able speakers and advocates for causes, as well as scholars, actors, singers, artists, and athletes! The diversity and richness of the program here contributes to both a receptivity to many domains of study, including all the arts, as well as to a genuine interest in the welfare and rights of others.

Nothing better epitomizes the kind of people we are helping to shape than seeing students in action. Before spring break, students, led by a group of 8th graders, organized a walkout in support of the victims of the Parkland, Florida school shootings. One of the leaders, Eleanor Radke, offers her perspective on the event below. I congratulate and thank Eleanor and her classmates. The walkout here was on a cold and breezy morning, but it was a solemn and moving experience, part of a greater, growing recognition that not only are our Burgundy children rightfully roused by events that impact their world, but they are prepared to exercise their agency and to be part of necessary activism and change where they see the need. All the better for them, us, and our future generations! Kudos to them.

Walkout speeches
Eleanor and other student organizers explain the background of the walkout to participants.

From Eleanor Radke, Class of 2018:

When a group of 8th graders heard about the Parkland shooting we felt that something needed to be said; we could not just leave this topic untouched. Since the shooting was so tragic, we wanted to do something to honor the kids who lost their lives. We heard about the National School Walkout on March 14 and we thought that we should do one at Burgundy. To make the idea of the walkout a reality, we had several small meetings with people who wanted to help. At first we really didn’t have a solid idea of what we were going to do, and the walkout was still a work in progress even on the morning it happened.

We wanted to make sure people were informed about the purpose of the walkout. I felt it was very important that we have follow-up information with many links and sources to learn more about the March for Our Lives, gun control, and National School Walkout on April 20. It was really a group effort and we needed support not just from the students, but from our teachers and administration. The 5th-8th grade students who chose to participate were allowed to meet at the Campus Commons at 10 a.m.  No students were required to join the walkout but we were impressed by the turnout of people.

The students who coordinated the walkout felt it was an important event for us as a community; having students, teachers, administrators, and even some parents made it very special. A really powerful moment for me personally was when some 1st graders saw what we were doing from where they were playing; they stopped and watched respectfully until we were done.

The feedback from students and teachers since the walkout has been very positive which makes me really happy because we put a lot of effort and heart into the event. We hope that we inspired the community to keep this conversation going in the future.

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