As Board of Education directors, administrators and Lewis-Palmer Middle School students huddled in a circle at the most recent November 15 Board of Education meeting, one may have mistaken their exercise as a simple game of follow the leader. The true purpose of the exercise emphasized the volunteer work of 33 seventh and eighth-grade students committed to stomping out hate and divisiveness one step at a time.
The students, who are all peer ambassadors with the LPMS No Place for Hate Committee, set out to help both the Board of Education and the broader D38 community reach a new level of understanding about their work and what motivates each student to make a difference.
“We as the no place for hate student committee strive to eradicate bias, prejudice and acts of discrimination and just general acts of hate of many different kinds by facilitating a handful of fun and encouraging activities to grow awareness and stop these acts of hate by generally raising awareness,” said Will, a LPMS seventh-grader.
Will and nine of his fellow committee members represented their larger group by leading a public display of Who’s The Leader, which allowed an appointed leader to discreetly engage in various activities with the goal of getting appointed followers to mimic their actions, all while a detective attempts to identify who is directing the followers.
Superintendent KC Somers, appointed leader by the students, helped followers temporarily fool Board of Education President Chris Taylor until he pinpointed Somers as the clear leader.
In that exercise, and in several others, the students put on display the dynamics of leadership, followership, understanding and more. In two subsequent exercises, including one which explained vocabulary associated with discrimination and another called “Stop, Think, Feel and Act,” the students demonstrated how they develop understanding and empathy among participants.
According to the students, their goal is to make a difference at their school and beyond, and in the near future, they will take these exercises and more into classrooms with their peers to help get that process rolling.
“I had a lot of experience with bullying, whether it was what I wore or my style,” said Scout, a seventh-grader. “I saw a lot of bullying, too, and I wanted to change that and help stop it.”
For some students, it is also about finding a voice, and other likeminded students.
“For only being in this group for a little while, I’ve learned to stand up for other people, and not be afraid to stick up for others who may need a hand,” said Emilia, a seventh-grader.
Each student has a story to share, and it is through those stories, and the activities they will share in the spring semester, that they hope to make a difference among their peers. Among Board of Education members, that difference is already being felt.
“I want to thank each one of you. It takes a lot of courage to do what you’re doing, so good work and please keep it up, and as one board member, please let me know what I can do to assist you,” said Matthew Clawson, Board of Education director for District 5.
Prior to their departure, the students received a round of applause and messages of thanks.
“I’d like to congratulate each one of you individually for embracing the concept that we’re all good, and that your classmates are good,” Taylor said. “As you try and deal with No Place for Hate, the other side of that is there’s a lot of room for love.”
To watch the entire presentation, tap on the video below.