The emcee of the assembly, Mr. Harp, expressed how amazing it was to be able to recognize, honor, and cherish what the student body has to offer. He introduced the theme of the assembly (“What do you stand for (or up against)?”) and then a member of STAND spoke briefly about the issue of genocide in Darfur and the discussions that will be taking place in the upcoming weeks about how to stand up against injustice in the world. There were a total of twelve excellent performances during the assembly. Many groups were involved in the assembly performances, including the NHS Chorus, members of the NHS faculty and staff, the NHS Rap Artists, the Spectrum in Motion Dancers, the JFK Dancers, the SOCA steppers, and more.
The three pairs of students in the first performance were introduced as ELL students (English Language Learners), and they performed a Merengue dance. Merengue is a style of Latin American music and dance with a two-step beat. The students in each pair had beautiful, matching outfits and seemed very confident in their dancing abilities. The music blared through the auditorium, and the audience was very engaged.
The second performance included students who were involved with SOCA and FLC (Florence Learning Center), i.e. Northampton High’s alternative education program. This was my favorite performance during the assembly, as I am very interested in the power of Spoken Word poetry. Spoken Word poetry is a general category of poetry that is meant to be both performed and to make a powerful statement. There was a huge projection screen with a well-made PowerPoint with the overall title: “These are the voices of those who feel they have no voices.” The students took turns reading excerpts from a poem they had each written. Many challenged stereotypes and categories of race, and expressed their hopes for a better community and society. Other students spoke about the issue of teachers and others having low expectations of students of color as well as the issues of silenced voices, racism, and racial profiling. Some striking lines from poems their poems read:
“It’s time to rearrange the broken puzzle of this country”
“This poem is dedicated to victims of hate crimes and bullying”
“I stand for equal rights; I don’t want to be judged by my heritage”
“I just want to be seen, heard, and respected at all times”
The third performance was a freshman singing “Ave Maria” by Beyonce. She did a wonderful job!
The fourth performance was a short claymation video created by four students. It was an antismoking public service announcement video that had been selected as one of the Top Finalists from nearly 100 excellent entries in the fourth annual Getting Real on Reel Film-Shorts Contest. As finalists, they were invited to WCVB’s Television Studio in Needham, MA on May 8th for the 2010 Awards Festival. The short video lasted only about 10 seconds, but it was excellent and definitely got the message against smoking across.
The fifth performance included two middle school students from JFK Middle School singing a song called “Rockstar.” It was very brave of them to get on stage in front of the high schoolers, but they pulled through and did a great job!
Next, NHS teachers performed a traditional Greek dance, typically seen at Greek weddings. It was a high-energy performance, and the teachers seemed to have a great time on stage. The students thought it was funny, but they clapped much after the performance finished.
Above: The NHS teachers performing the Greek wedding dance.
The seventh performance included Ms. Bernard’s freshman writing class, who spoke about the idea of the achievement gap. About 15 students stood on stage and took turns asking questions such as, “What is the achievement gap?” and “Who does well in school and why?” Each student wrote and read their reflections on how the achievement gap plays out in both NHS and society in general.
The eighth performance featured a young woman, who decided to sing “How do I live?” by Trisha Yearwood. The student dedicated the song to her mother and ended up singing her heart out to the appreciative audience.
The ninth performance was another one of my favorites. The Alpha Squad from Jackson St. and JFK schools starred in this segment. A modern dance group, they performed a high-energy, fun choreographed dance to a mix-up of 3 different songs. They definitely had their moves down!
Above: The Alpha squad performing modern dance choreography.
The tenth performance showcased a salsa dance, where several partners (some of whom already performed in the Merengue dance) took to the stage. They did a wonderful job, and the audience clapped along to the beat of the song. It was a lot of fun!
Above: Students performing the Salsa dance.
The next performance included two students, a boy and girl, singing “Colors of the Wind” as a Music teacher played the song on the piano. They sung it beautifully, and they seemed to have great chemistry on stage together.
Above: Students singing “Colors of the Wind” with teacher playing the piano in the background.
The final performance was fantastic! The emcee introduced it: “The last performance for the assembly has taken a lot of preparation for your enjoyment. But it is “Thriller” by Michael Jackson!” The lights turned off, a smoke machine started to pump smoke into the audience, and the music blared through the speakers. Six students, dressed appropriately as zombies, performed a choreographed dance routine. Everyone in the audience got up and gave a standing ovation at the end. It was definitely a great way to conclude the assembly, as it kept the energy sustained until the very end of it.
I asked the two high schoolers sitting next to me, both freshmen, if they enjoyed the performance, and they told me: “It was fun and I am happy I got to miss class for it!” I assume that the other students in the auditorium enjoyed it as well, since everyone was talking about it as they were exiting the auditorium and the school building!
By Vanessa Shea