During a year when many schools were struggling to continue regular programming, students at Gorham High School (ME) and Energy Tech High School (Queens, NY) took the challenge to create an Operation Breaking Stereotypes partnership.
OBS students at Gorham High School in Maine had spent the previous year exploring their own identities and sharing their voices for social justice within their own community. Meanwhile, students at Energy Tech High School in Queens, NY, were looking to find a way to expand their learning and vision beyond their pandemic imposed remote schooling.
And so the OBS magic happened.
Thinking critically about their own lives and identity and about the importance of cross-cultural understanding and appreciation, they used writing, reading, thinking, and discussing to accomplish a connection that addressed social equity and justice. They met three times on Google Meets, sharing stereotypes they had about each other, changes they wanted to see in their communities, and finally wrote and shared poems giving voice to particular issues and concerns.
In spite of a pandemic, an enforced separation, and a few nerves about meeting someone new, these students came together and identified concerns they have about the world right now — sexism, racism, xenophobia, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, the way power structures influence certain groups negatively. They wrote and shared poems giving voice to these issues.
The bond was strong, and the commitment to meet face to face is even stronger. As Maya Angelou said, “It’s very important to know the neighbor next door and the people down the street and the people in another race.” And they will!
These students will once again partner in the 2021-2022 school year as they work to discover more about each other and to come together to work for social and environmental justice.
Example of Giving Voice poem from GHS/Energy TECH partnership:
I give voice to the LGBTQ+ community. Why are they discriminated against? My voice is as loud as a firework and an explosion when I speak of the LGBTQ+ community. My voice is as strong as steel. My voice is as kind as lending a hand. My voice is like the water spout when it rampages through the sea. My voice is as convincing as Theodore Roosevelt when he spoke to congress on worker’s compensation. My voice runs and roars from New York to California. My voice is supported by my friends and teachers. My voice will be heard by my state and my country.