Student Body Invokes Change: SHA Called To Action

“Is that all you have to say?”, “A black square, really?”, “That’s it?” are just a few of the comments plastered under SHA’s posts this past summer. It was hard to miss- an overwhelming outcry from students about SHA’s silence or what some perceived as complacency over the recent events involving George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. 

While the nation mourned a loss, resulting in demands for change, protests, and unification, SHA experienced its own calls to change and reform. Starting online, several students and alumni began to voice their opinions on SHA’s initial lack of words regarding the social climate, and particularly, their hesitation to blatantly exclaim once and for all that Black Lives truly do Matter. Over several days the number of comments under SHA’s posts only seemed to rise, and more and more students, parents, and alumni began to express their concerns. Overwhelmed and unsure of what to do, the school turned off comments- something that has never been done before.

It wasn’t long until students interpreted the comment block as silencing and restrictive. Administration, out of an attempt to calm everyone’s nerves, posted again that day- an apprehensive effort to express their acknowledgment of the “abhorrent racism in the world”. The post ended in a call to prayer, leaving girls with a rosary service to attend. Once again, this proved to be far from enough, as girls demanded calls to action, not just prayer or words. The next day SHA posted yet again- a picture of a sign claiming “All are welcome, all are loved”. In a message that still failed to say the words “Black Lives Matter”, the student body continued to press administration about the issue. Several girls went to email Sr. Sheila, as the statements expressed openness to student feedback. In a technical mishap, girls’ emails weren’t sending. With tensions high and emotions running deep, girls began to think that the school was blocking emails, which, most certainly wasn’t true. 

Finally, the administration called upon several students and alumni to come discuss all that was occurring. The meeting consisted of heartfelt discussions about several experiences students of color had endured within the school and ways that the school could be more socially aware. Together, the girls helped write down some ideas for a better formal statement regarding the current events. The girls also discussed several ways that the school could diversify and educate their staff and students, including hiring a person of color to manage all diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. The singular meeting was definitely not the end of the school’s transformative journey but it was certainly a good start. While a majority of students felt like the school was against them, this initial meeting between the administration and the girls bridged a gap that otherwise felt quite large. It was ultimately a unifying moment, one that would come to bring generational change to SHA.

After that meeting, several other efforts to communicate with the student body took place. As more and more voices were heard, it became clear that SHA was serious about making sure everyone feels represented, loved, and respected. The school has already made monumental progress as Anti-Racism Prayer services are underway, and a Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has been hired. Already, the calls to action that SHA slowly but surely made, are coming true. 

There’s an important lesson that we all can learn about what happened over the summer- a lesson about the way one invokes real and everlasting change. In life there are ultimately two ways one can go about being heard; you can demonize, attack, and defensively overwhelm your opposing force, or you can work with the opposing force, in a way that your thoughts and feelings are comprehended, taken seriously, and sympathized with. Whether it be a generational gap, a racial gap, social status gap, etc. we are most effective when we work with one another, listen to one another, and take the time to understand one another. You can listen to people all you want but it serves no purpose if you aren’t actively trying to understand. 

As difficult as it was, what happened this summer with SHA needed to happen. The heartbreak, struggle, and confusion many of us felt all served a greater purpose. SHA will hopefully and surely day by day become an even more inclusive, sensitive, and enjoyable place to be for all students.