Asking for Courage day adapts to new schedule

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TAEYEON KIM/SAGAMORE STAFF

Physics teacher Graciela Mohamedi spoke during during the C and F block assemblies about her experiences as a Latina woman and the power of a name and of identity.

With the high school on a completely new schedule and divided across two buildings, participants in Asking for Courage Day 2019 adapted to many changes.

During Asking for Courage Day, classes at the high school teach lessons or attend assemblies discussing race. The split school and new schedule have presented a number of challenges, forcing organizers to change the format and structure of the event. Organizers of Asking for Courage have dedicated countless hours of their time putting the event together to create educational lessons and assemblies for the student body.

According to English teacher Kevin Wang, one of the organizers of Asking for Courage, the split campus necessitated a simplification of the Asking for Courage process. This led to a transition in the structure of the day, with a move away from having assemblies in the auditorium every block.

“Having a similar format between both buildings enables the student body to actually see the most assemblies,” Wang said. “The new schedule makes it really difficult to organize an actual assembly selection the way it worked in the past because we don’t fully understand how to work with this new schedule.”

In past years, some teachers would choose not to take their classes to assemblies, which were held most blocks of the day in the auditorium and the Black Box. This year, each grade has one Telling Our Stories assembly. Wang believes that this will help ensure that all students will be included in Asking for Courage.

“It became apparent to us that certain students would go throughout the building on these assembly days and not have seen or heard about a single assembly,” Wang said. “Certain students and staff members, because they’re busy, fell through the cracks and weren’t able to sort of engage with the day.”

Another way that the organizers of Asking for Courage are attempting to increase participation, is by having teachers lead experiences for their classes. Spanish teacher Astrid Allen, one of the primary organizers of the event, helped to put together lesson plans for teachers on the day.

“Our mission for Asking For Courage is building knowledge, building community, and building inspiration for action,” Allen said. “In each of the blocks we’re going to be offering teachers lessons that they can do with their students ranging from different levels of interactivity.”

She and other teachers and students worked together to create lesson plans of various lengths that teachers could choose from, ranging from ten minute experiences to experiences that take up the entire block. She also offered teachers the option to have student-led clubs come into their classes and lead experiences.

“We’re having lessons written by Students Against Institutional Racism and Warriors for Change,” Allen said. “We’re having the Brookline Education Theatre Company kids working on two different kinds of experiences, one with ACE, and one with some of the classrooms, so it should be pretty neat.”

Wang also said there are a number of obstacles that occur every year. Due to the number of holidays that take place in December, when Asking for Courage is held, participants in the event have scarce time to meet and plan the event. The limited time of high school students and faculty also poses a challenge to organizing the event.

“You know, this is not something that kids do for credit, not something that teachers do for compensation,” Wang said. “So it’s basically mostly volunteer work. Because of that, if someone gets really busy, it becomes easy to miss out on certain things.”

Junior Sungmin (Sam) Cho, who spoke at Asking for Courage Day in both 2018 and 2019 said that while the time commitment was not too strenuous, the risk of opening up to the wider community could be.

“You have to be comfortable telling your story in front of the whole school. That’s the commitment,” Cho said.

Despite this, Cho said that hearing a variety of stories from different speakers in the preparation for Asking for Courage was rewarding.

“I always like listening to other people’s stories and different people’s approach to telling their stories, and what they’re trying to use to get across what they’re trying to say, like poems or speeches or the perspectives that they’re telling their stories in.” Cho said. “Those kinds of elements were interesting to think about. There were a lot of eye opening moments.”

Sophomore Yuki Hoshi, a speaker at Asking for Courage, agreed that the commitments are worth it.

“So far, it’s taken up my X-block and then time outside of school, but I signed up for it, so I’m happy to take that time out,” Hoshi said.

Hoshi said that Asking for Courage allowed her to talk about a part of her identity that she didn’t usually get to.

“Being biracial wasn’t something I’d heard about much. So I always thought that what I experienced was singular to me, and it was only specific to what I was feeling, or I was the only one who was having to go through all this,” Hoshi said. “But starting two years ago, including last year with the assembly, I started seeing that more people were having the same experience. I realized how much I was missing out, because we didn’t talk about it enough.”

According to Allen, students have been dedicated to making sure Asking for Courage was a success. She said that she is thankful for the student leaders in the building who are so passionate talking about issues of race and ethnicity and willing to come before and after school to work on the event.

“I had students come on the day, when there was no school, to come work on this,” Allen said. “They are dedicated and passionate about sharing not only their personal experience, but also helping their community understand how to talk about these things.”