Photo by Andrew Chan
Discrimination exists everywhere, even at WCHS. After several public displays of hate, discrimination has become increasingly easy to spot, so WCHS students and parents formed the Churchill Inclusive Achievement Council to help the situation.
The Churchill Inclusive Achievement Council, a group comprised of students and parents, was just an idea last spring. Since then, the group has grown and created programs dedicated to combating the discrimination some students face regularly.
“The vision of the council is that the academic and personal success of WCHS students is not predicted by their race, religion, gender, ethnicity or sexual preference,” parent co-chair Felasfa Wodajo said.
One initiative that the council has started are study circles. During these circles, students can discuss some bias and hate that they have witnessed or even experienced first-hand. The circles are run by a team from the MCPS Equity Initiative, a county-sponsored group dedicated to stopping discrimination in schools. The topics can be sensitive, but by discussing them, the council makes it easier for students to understand hate and discrimination.
“Students often share very painful experiences in these structured conversations,” Wodajo said. “The students and parents who have participated found it eye-opening and moving.”
These study circles started out small at first, but they have grown in size, meaning and effectiveness.
“Three of the students from last year’s study circle have now joined the council to help organize the next study circle so it is better publicized and has more follow up, so it is effective in moving attitudes at WCHS,” Wodajo said.
Not only students and parents are getting involved in the council, staff members are also showing their support by joining the council in their movement against discrimination and hate.
“From the school, members include principal Heckert, and assistant principals Dr. Howard, Mr. Reck and Mr. Rohner, Ms. Gasaway, Ms. Sullivan as well as others,” Wodajo said.
The council also runs the Anti-Defamation League’s “No Place for Hate” program at WCHS. This program helps assert that WCHS is a safe and healthy place for people of all backgrounds and cultures.
Additionally, the council provides platforms on social media for WCHS students to discuss certain topics. The council runs a Twitter where issues can be discussed and also has an e-mail address where they can be contacted privately.
“The council absolutely welcomes all participants,” Wodajo said. “We would love to hear your ideas.”
The council does not just want to discuss hate; it wants to root it out entirely in the WCHS community. The council wants to foster an environment in which hate is deemed unacceptable and virtually never occurs. This goal is one of the pillars that the council bases its platform off of.
According to the council’s mission statement, they want to help build a school culture where hateful speech or actions are rare and not tolerated.
The council is equipping WCHS students with tools that will help them combat hate and discrimination. They want to expand the program to the point that every member of the WCHS community is participating, especially students.
“We would love to have even more participation, as students best understand their school and can help build a culture of inclusivity at WCHS,” Wodajo said.