Sunday, May 30, 2010

Students Attend World Music and Dance Assembly for Diversity Week

On Tuesday, April 13, 2010, I had the opportunity to attend Northampton High School’s “World Music and Dance” assembly, which is part of Diversity Week. As I entered the auditorium, I noticed a high level of energy and excitement; there had to be at least 700 students in attendance, all eager to see the performances. SOCA, the Students of Color Association, sponsored Diversity Week, and they teamed up with the Environmental Club to celebrate Earth Day and the theme of UNITY in one sustainable world. STAND, the student-led division of the Genocide Intervention Network, also played a large role in the success of the assembly.

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

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

An Inspirational Coach

Coaching the Northampton High School Boys Varsity Lacrosse team is more than just a job for Bill Metzger. As a former NHS student, Coach Metzger made a pact with his friends to come back to school one day and give back to his team. After graduating and playing in college, he is doing just that – showing NHS and the Northampton community just how important lacrosse can be.

“They’re my guys,” Coach Metzger says, “I have expectations.” These expectations are changing everything for the team, who is set up to have a spectacular season. They are currently 6 and 3, after having played several great games. They even beat their rivals in Minnechaug, something which they have not done in 13 years.

Senior Captains Chris Wagner and Charlie Cronin are integral players on the Boys Varsity Lacrosse team, for they play a key role in leading their teammates to victory. As neighbors, Chris and Charlie have been playing lacrosse since fifth grade, and have learned the “ins and outs” of the nearby teams in order to prepare for this season. “We love the coach,” remarks Chris. “He’s helped us out since we were young.” The different generations and dimensions contribute to the sense of teamwork, pride, and accomplishments that resonate as the team practices together.

Lacrosse is so important that many players want to come back to help coach one day. Coach Metzger has a strict rule, however – they have to graduate from college first. As the team told me, “We want to be like Coach.”

By Suzanne Oppenheimer

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Strike a Pose: Diversity Week Fashion Show

Diversity Week drew to a close with a fabulous fashion show held in the auditorium during 2nd period on April 16, 2010. Students modeled cultural dress and fashions from around the world, and they closed the show with a sample of this year's formal prom wear. Many NHS students volunteered to participate in the show, and some JFK students also had the opportunity to model. NHS worked closely with the JFK school's SOCA club throughout the entirety of Diversity Week.

The energy was high as the models walked out onto the stage and down a short runway, which extended out toward the audience. Students screamed out and applauded their peers throughout the show, especially enjoying the hilarious antics of several of the models. Early in the show, one male student took off his shirt at the end of the stage, and both girls and boys responded with laughter and cat calls. The female models struck their best poses on the runway, complete with pursed lips, exaggerated hips, and sassy hair tosses. The event was in very good humor, and everyone seemed to have a blast.

The students modeled beautiful, colorful clothing from all around the world while cultural music played in the background and images of people in other countries served as the backdrop. The styles of dress modeled by the students derived from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Africa, India, Turkey, Japan, Cambodia, Scotland, and many other countries.

Ms. Gardner took the stage in between the cultural wear and formal prom wear segments to thank Northampton High's SOCA senior members, who are graduating this year. She also thanked the supportive parents and local businesses who helped to make Diversity Week a success. She additionally expressed her gratitude to the Men's Warehouse for their involvement in the fashion show; they provided all of the suits and tuxes modeled by the students.

The transition from the cultural clothing to prom wear marked a significant transition in the show. Student models in the latter part were elegant and charming in their formal attire, and the audience was equally receptive to this portion of the show.

At the end of the fashion show, NHS students headed back to their classes while the models gathered to congratulate one another on the success of the event. One model, Josean, said the event was fun, and he enjoyed being in it. The audience were also reacted positively to the show. Kelsey Simpson, an NHS student, said “the fashion show was cool. All of Diversity Week was a lot of fun." All who were involved with the Diversity Week events can now sit back, relax, and bask in the glow of their hard work and subsequent success.

By Darleen Hostetler

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Culture Night Dinner and Dance

Northampton High School hosted its 7th annual Culture Night Dinner and Dance on April 14, 2010. The evening featured an eclectic spread of cultural dishes for dinner, followed by a dance with music provided by DJ Mike. Students of the high school as well as community members were both invited to attend this night of celebration. The high school worked with John F. Kennedy Middle School's Students of Color Association/Alliance (SOCA) to plan the festivities.

A line of people formed outside the cafeteria door at 6:00 pm, where NHS students sold tickets and excitedly welcomed friends, family, and staff members from several Northampton schools. The NHS Council also sold T-shirts, which featured student artwork, to raise funds here. Although school T-shirts are often reserved for student-athletes in American high schools, NHS makes the school T-shirt inclusive and available to all. In fact, T-shirt sales will continue in the office and at other school events, providing a chance for all students and community members to purchase one and show their school spirit.

Above: The cafeteria prior to the Culture Night Dinner and Dance.

Above: Cakes decorated as flags from around the world.

The atmosphere of the event made all attendees feel welcome. The school cafeteria was transformed, with its windows draped with the flags of various countries and its tables tastefully set up for groups to converse around them. Guests enjoyed a variety of delicious foods donated by local businesses, including La Veracruzana, India House, India Palace, Golden Krust Jamaican Restaurant, Great Wall, Big Y, and Stop & Shop.

Above: Guests waiting for their cultural meal in the food line.

People had their fill at the dinner. They were able to choose from from dishes like tandoori chicken, basmati and Spanish rices, lo mein, samosas, salads, guacamole, salsa, and cakes decorated as the flags of Puerto Rico, Pakistan, and Jamaica. Beyond the traditional soft drinks and water, the diners could also indulge in either mango lassi and champola de guanabana. The dinner boasted a significant and diverse attendance, and one student predicted the dance to be even more crowded. “We expect the dance to be good, it's always fun!”

Above: A nice sampling of cultural food.

Above: Students enjoying the food and company.

Ms. Garner, the Diversity Week Co-Advisor and a Northampton teacher, expressed her gratitude toward the students involved and the support of the community during the event. She stressed the importance of Diversity Week, stating that events like this one help "students to feel comfortable with who they are and provide a more welcoming and safe place within the school." She also said that the Diversity Week events promoted the acceptance of different dress, food, and dance of different cultures.

Above: NHS students Mehwish, Rahma, and Smera, respectively, who volunteered to do Henna designs for the guests.

While it was just one of many Diversity Week events, the Culture Night Dinner and Dance was a definite success, and it provides yet another example of the positive experiences in which students at Northampton High School share.

By Darleen Hostetler

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Getting to Know Kathy Goodwin-Boyd

Who is Kathy Goodwin-Boyd? Besides being a woman with a very long last name, Kathy is a beloved and valued part of Northampton High School. Her official title is Adjustment Counselor; however, this title barely does justice to the work she does with Northampton’s teens.

Kathy is a clinical social worker who is available to help any student with any problem, including school difficulties, peer concerns, alcohol/drug-related issues, relationship problems, and other personal issues which students deal with.

Kathy received her bachelor’s degree from Connecticut College and went on to obtain her master’s degree in social work at Columbia University. She began her job at Northampton High school 18 years ago. Needless to say, she has become an integral part of the Northampton community. She sees herself as an advocate for each student who walks into her office. She comments, “I am here to listen to any problem and to work any difficulty out with the students who come see me.” She also encourages each student to utilize his or her guidance counselor, teachers, and parents, as well as herself. “I want the kids to know they have multiple people looking out for them and multiple people who care about their well being.” Adults refer about half of the students she sees, while the other half come to her on their own.

It is vital for high school students to have an adult in their lives whose door is always open for them to walk in and talk about their various challenges because, let’s face it, the teen years can be overwhelming and full of difficulties. With her welcoming smile and great sense of humor, Kathy makes her students feel at ease when they enter her office. She makes it known that she holds her students in high esteem and has every confidence that, after some guidance, they are fully capable of finding the answers they seek. Kathy emphasizes this by “prepping kids for the future.” She says, “I want the students to leave my office knowing they have the ability to solve any problem, even without my help.”

Kathy never has a dull moment; in fact, she saw over 180 teens during the previous year! Because there are so many kids who are eager to talk with her, a line usually forms outside of her door starting as early as 7:30 am. Clearly, Kathy Goodwin-Boyd is doing something right.

By Marie Wallace

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The White Ribbon Campaign

Last Monday, the students in the NHS Community Service Learning course held a highly successful event at the high school to inform the students about the White Ribbon Campaign, a project “involving awareness, support, and prevention of domestic abuse.” NHS teachers Jason Scavotto and Randy Gordon originally collaborated and designed this class as part of the school’s FLC program. Students in the Community Service Learning class are given the opportunity to play a large role in determining the coursework for the class. The two teachers work together with students to determine different unit topics and create a syllabus for the semester. In order to apply their studies beyond the classroom, the students design different culminating community service projects for each of their units. The class’ most recent unit is on Public Safety, and students chose to develop the White Ribbon Campaign as the culminating project.

After the project was decided on, the teachers were able to connect with the education coordinator at Safe Passage and bring in two speakers on domestic violence. The students were very moved by the subject and found it to be a very important cause, which they felt motivated to help through their course. So, the students and teachers went to work designing a creative and dynamic campaign to raise awareness about domestic abuse. The students conducted research, met with Safe Passage, made a video of facts on the subject, and designed posters with information from their research. Students also volunteered in between classes, during lunch, and before and after school to help run the pledge campaign event. “The students hoped to influence people in a positive way and take a step toward ending violence against women,” says Jason Scavotto. They hoped to do this by spreading awareness of the issue and the services available to the school and community.

On the day of the campaign event, the students from the class passed out little white ribbons for students to wear and thus show their support for the campaign. They also worked a variety of tables, one of which featured giant white ribbons where students could sign a pledge to stand up against domestic abuse and try to help the cause. Other tables contained information about domestic abuse and resources from Safe Passage and other organizations that the students researched. The guidance staff also attended the event to support the campaign and offer further information and resources to students. The event was a massive success and the students obtained five hundred signatures on their pledge! Other students seemed highly interested and supportive toward the cause, and the campaign organizers were clearly thrilled at the success of the event. I extend my congratulations to the FLC students and teachers who were successful in raising awareness in their community and whose hard work demonstrate their dedication to public service for this important cause.

If you would like additional materials related to domestic abuse education, you can go to www.chooserespect.org or www.janedoe.org, where you can download videos and curriculum materials.

By Christabel Breen

Students Attend High-Energy Assembly on Climate Change

Students flooded the halls with their bodies and noise as they made their way to the auditorium on the afternoon of April 1, 2010 for an assembly on climate change. Teachers were invited to allow their last period classes to attend this assembly put on by ACE (Alliance for Climate Education). The sixth grade classes from the Smith College Campus School were also invited and in attendance. Tom Weiner, one of the sixth grade teachers, helped to initiate the presentation by connecting ACE with NHS.

Members of the NHS Environmental Club began the assembly by announcing upcoming events sponsored by the club. They also invited students to attend a question and answer session immediately following the assembly. Finally, they introduced Julian Rodriguez-Drix from ACE and the high-energy assembly (on conserving energy!) commenced.

Julian ran the presentation with style and flare. His interactive multimedia presentation and lecture was upbeat, captivating, and engaging, making it a truly entertaining and fun experience for the youth who were in attendance. He left scare tactics, which are often used in climate change education, at the door and, instead, gave students serious facts that they could relate to their everyday lives. He dealt with issues of climate change in a positive and non-judgmental way by raising students' awareness of the problem at hand and the methods by which they are actively polluting and contributing to global warming. The presentation explained how climate change has been caused and continued by social influence and our culture of consumption. Students learned how their seemingly minimal consumption is connected to huge companies, large usage of fossil fuels, and incredible amounts of waste. Julian clearly summarized his message in his statement, “We're all wrapped up in [an] economic cycle that just leads to garbage.” He also discussed “super-sized” American living, excessive use of non-renewable resources, and the results of pollution in an urgent, but humorous, manner.

Julian told students that they were not to blame for the current state of our environment, but that they had to be responsible for changing it. He encouraged students to use their imaginations to combat climate change. “If the ideas aren't out there yet, they're somewhere inside you now, in your hearts, in your heads.” He then played an inspirational video, which depicted the students celebrating the hypothetical environmental changes they had made at their high school reunion forty years later. This video not only suggested a possible plan of action for the adolescent generation to take, but it also provided a positive feeling that this is a problem that they can, and must, take on. Afterward, Julian roused the audience and urged them to take a stand. He ended the assembly by encouraging students to text ACE to make their own commitment to change, creating both an energetic frenzy to pull out cell phones and an overwhelming explosion of chatter in response to his presentation.

Both high schoolers and sixth graders exited the auditorium full of hope and anticipation to act against climate change. Many high school students attended the question and answer session with Julian Rodriguez-Drix and the Environmental Club, while others provided their email addresses to be contacted with additional information about ACE. The Smith College Campus School sixth graders rushed back to their own classrooms to discuss and write about their responses to the assembly.

With Earth Day around the corner, the NHS Environmental Club has many events coming up in the future. During the week of April 26, 2010, there will be a showing of the film Food Inc, a sampling of locally grown foods, various Earth Day art displays, and a composting option during lunch periods. The week of May 17, 2010 is Bike Week, during which NHS students are encouraged to ride their bikes to school. Competitions will be held and those who participate will receive tasty treats from the Environmental Club.

For more information on ACE, check out their website: www.acespace.org. Schools or other institutions interested in scheduling their own assembly can do so through the group's website.

By Darleen Hostetler